No, this isn’t a blog about genetically modified organisms -- that has been argued enough lately! Instead, in honor of Thanksgiving, I want to talk about regular old selective breeding and the monsters it can create: the industrial turkey, the main course at most dinner tables on Thursday.
What we have all conspired to do to this once noble bird is appallingly awful. In our drive for more healthy white meat, we have selected for giant versions of turkeys with grotesquely over-sized breasts. How over-sized? Their breasts are so big at this point that these poor things can’t successfully mate. Every industrial turkey was created by artificial insemination.
Not only that, but all of that extra muscle has created birds in constant pain. Their bones just can’t easily handle all of that muscle being packed on so quickly. Add the damage to their hearts and the resulting high rate of heart attacks and you have something pretty close to monstrous.
And remember, we didn’t engineer these things at all. These caricatures of wild turkeys were hidden in the turkey genome all along.
Most species have an incredible amount of variation prepacked into their genomes. Look at a Great Dane and a Chihuahua and you’ll know what I mean! Both came from the same basic set of recipes, the wolf genome.