Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Call to the Butterball Hotline

“Turkey Talk-line. This is Lucy. How may I help you?”

“Oh, hi, Lucy. This is Butterball hotline, right?”

“Yes. How may I help you?”

“So my understanding is that you help people with questions they have about turkeys?”

“That is what we do. Do you have a question, ma’am?”

“Well, yes, I do. I was wondering...I’m afraid that this is going to sound strange.”

(Laughs.) “Go ahead. You’d be surprised. I get lots of questions.”

“I’m sure you do. This is it: I was wondering how the turkeys lived.”

“I’m sorry -- how they lived?”

“Yes, I mean, what kind of lives they lived.”

“The turkeys?”

“Yes, the turkeys. This is the turkey hotline, right?”

“I’m sorry. Your question? I - I’m not sure -?”

“See, I’m wondering what kind of lives the Butterball turkeys have? Had. You know? What were their lives like?”

“I still am not understanding...”

“I mean, the quality of their lives, the turkey’s lives.”

(Pause, throat clearing...) “Well, I think they were good lives.”

“Oh, that’s nice to hear but by ‘good lives’, what do you mean?”

“Well, I do know that Butterball maintains the highest standards of care for our birds. We don’t tolerate anything less than the best care for our turkeys.”

“See, I am just wondering about that.”


“Like how is that possible that they have good lives?”


“I just read that people in the United States eat 46 million turkeys every year for Thanksgiving. Forty-six million and that’s just Thanksgiving. Butterball is pretty much synonymous with the Thanksgiving turkey so I thought you’d be the ones to ask. How can the turkeys be treated with the ‘highest standards of care’ given everything?”

“Ma’am, you are aware that this is a cooking help line, right? You might be better served by our media department. Let me transfer -”

“No, wait. I’m not from the media. I don’t want to talk to a public relations person. On your website it says, and I quote, ‘Ready and waiting, our Turkey Talk-Line experts can answer all your turkey questions - no matter how challenging.’ I don’t think I’m in the wrong place.”


“So my question is how could they have lived good lives?”

“I don’t -”

“This might fall under the category of ‘challenging’ but I have been assured that you can answer my questions.”

“Well, I know that they have good lives because I know that the standards of care are the best for Butterball birds.”

“But, see, that is what I am not understanding. How can that many turkeys be raised and slaughtered without cruelty? Do the turkeys just sort of die on their own time? I don’t think so. And then Butterball processes the corpses and people eat them, which, well, gross but...”


“I know that they get their throats slit when they’re slaughtered and that can’t exactly be gentle. And before that, the babies are separated from their mothers, they’re crammed together, they get their beaks cut, they’re artificially inseminated -”

“Ma’am, this topic doesn’t fall within my area of expertise.”

“Here’s the thing, though: I’ve met turkeys before. They are really cool birds. And on the Butterball website, again, it says that you can answer ALL turkey questions - no matter -”

“I know what it says.”

“ - how challenging. Anyway, I’ve met turkeys at sanctuaries before, and they will walk right up to you.”


“Yeah, I know! If you sit on the ground, they will walk right up to you and look you in the eye. They seem to have a lot of curiosity. Really friendly, too. They like to be petted.”

“I did not know that.”

“And, so, it’s understandable that it makes me pretty sad what we do to them and all the other animals.”

“I’m really not sure what to say. Did you have a question? I mean, one that I can answer?”

“I’m just wondering if it feels all right to you to eat turkeys knowing what we know about them. Does that seem fair?”

“These are turkeys we’re talking about. Simple creatures.”

“But even if they were, which I don’t believe is true, does that make our treatment of them justifiable?”

“I am still not sure why I am the one you want to talk to about this. I can tell you about basting, about cooking temperatures, food safety -”

“You know, for our Thanksgiving, we can chop and chop and chop and not worry about cross contamination. Isn’t that cool?”

“ - but I am really going to have to go so I can answer others‘ calls.”

“Okay, I am sorry for taking up your time. You know something so coincidental, though?”

“What’s that?”

“I’m looking at this website for a sanctuary and they have a turkey I can sponsor named Lucy. That’s your name, too, right? Isn’t that a funny coincidence?”

(Pause.) “It is. But Lucy is kind of a common name.”

“Well, yes, but I still think it’s an interesting coincidence. You know what I am going to do? I’m going to sponsor Lucy the turkey.”


“She’s so cute. It says that she was rescued after falling off a transport truck and that she loves cranberries and scratches on the back.”

“That’s funny. I love cranberries and back scratches, too.”

“Small world. So I just want you to remember that there is a beautiful turkey named Lucy out there and she is one of the few lucky ones. No one will hurt her.”

“I’m glad to hear that.”

“Lucy will get to live out her life with people who love her and care about her. She’ll get to eat cranberries and get all the back scratches she wants. She gets to enjoy the dirt and the sunshine.”

“I’m not sure what to say. I’m very happy to hear that.”

“Well, I hope you have a great day, Lucy.”

“You, too. Happy Thanksgiving. Oh, wait -"


"What was the name of that sanctuary? I think I want to sponsor Lucy, too.”


Lizz Clements said...

I would be weeping if I weren't at work! Amazing!

Anonymous said...

I'm on board with the sentiment, but I question if this is real?

ColinHill said...

I really love this Marla.

Marla said...

Thank you, Lizz!

Marla said...

Hi, Anonymous - no, it's not. Only in my imagination. :)

Marla said...

Thank you, Colin!

Anonymous said...

You should totally do this call for real and see what they say and then post that.

Anonymous said...

just one person at a time, is all it takes. yea! for the turkey hot line gal.... some years back I was given a couple of turkeys because I was a known veg. the boys were great loved to play, and never turned down the opportunity to strut for visitors sadly they did not live long, really enjoyed their personalities.

Bea Elliott said...

What a great conversation! One that I hope is being repeated in a hundred variations throughout the turkey-eating world. I often think... If only we raised the right questions the right way - Eventually, surely people will get it. No need for sacrificial birds or anyone else on a holiday or ever. Let's keep the conversations going! ;)

beth said...

fantastic post! I wasn't at work and I was in tears.

Marla said...

Thanks for sharing about your turkey friends, Anonymous. I have always been struck by their larger-than-life personalities.

Marla said...

Thank you, Bea! I couldn't agree more! <3

Marla said...

Thank you so much, Beth!

Bea Elliott said...

Of course everything about a "humane" turkey is an outright lie. In my way of figuring things... The whole "fresh" turkey qualifies for a giant fib too.

It took some doing but I just HAD to know! I called the hotline and pressed the point of what exactly "fresh" means... Turns out that from the hour a bird is turned into a carcass, if held at a maximum 40 degrees, can be "fresh" for up to 2 years.

My hotline rep wasn't too thrilled with the answer either... It gives a whole new meaning to "dead meat" doesn't it? :/

I hope everyone enjoys their honest and delicious plant based meal! Thanks for all you do! <3

Anonymous said...

That is ridiculous… Seriously? I don't like eating animals because I am just not a meat person but the dramatics of saving a turkey or any other animal over human life is absurd. We don't protest when a bigger fish eats a smaller fish, thats nature. And don't go on about their lifestyle. Most animals in the wild don't even stand a chance Get passed it people and find something productive to do.. Jesus..

Bea Elliott said...

Hi Anonymous! I didn't know that any human's life was at risk by advocating for turkeys or other animals. Did I miss something? Even so, frankly as far as I'm concerned if it indeed was an "either or", "life or death" situation, I'd still have to evaluate who the human was and who the nonhuman was that needed saving. Our species does have quite a few undesirables in it too - Yes?

I am/was very much a "meat person". I didn't dislike anything about the taste... But gee I sure don't like eating them because of the ethical implications. That just goes against everything about who I am trying to be: compassionate, thoughtful, kind and consistent. But I do realize that other animals like sharks, alligators, lions, and bears don't have that option. They *must* eat other animals in order to live... And I don't know that they have any moral dilemma about who or what they eat. We humans sure do and should. Poor "smaller fishes" but that is out of our hands to change. Changing hearts and minds to be more considerate of others surely can't be "unproductive" now is it? How else are we going to make a better world? :)

Anonymous said...

I understand that people feel that if we don't eat me we will not starve, but biologically, we are a meat and veggie type of species. Meat is not the only source of protein and other nutrients, but it is the quickest and most efficient way.

I do not believe that all places treat their animals humane and yes, we do need people to regulate since animals are treated cruel, but calling the butterball hotline and acting like an ass makes no sense.

How does bullying someone (and yes I say bulling since employees are unable to fully defend themselves since they re at work) who have no authority over people purchasing turkeys let alone the corporate offices make a point?

If you worked at Walmart, do you control prices? How about a gas station? A book store? Coffee shop? Harassing an employee is ineffective and if I worked there and someone called me with the bullshit conversation, I would simply yes them to death and laugh behind their back. Their protesting is nothing more than a prank call.

I won't even touch the absurd behavior I read earlier about crying over the turkeys.. lol

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Beings Deserve Love said...

"I do not believe that all places treat their animals humane..."

It doesn't sound like you know much about factory farming. But this is a start.

BTW, I once called up a radio station, because they had a talk segment on how to get people to stop eating turkey for Thanksgiving. I suggested if the sounds of the slaughterhouse were broadcast (out on the streets), more people might take notice... The call screener hung up. Turned out their (silly) segment was to needle people into defending their turkey traditions. I stopped listenening however.