Thanksgiving is just a few short weeks away. While you’re probably already in the throes of meal planning, there’s still plenty of time to make sure your feast is healthy for your family and the environment.

You’re probably familiar with some of the horror stories surrounding conventional supermarket turkeys. Bred to produce the most possible meat at the lowest cost, such animals are fattened to the point where they are often unable to walk, and raised in otherwise inhumane conditions. (This report from the Humane Society offers an in-depth – though upsetting – look at conventional turkey production.)

So what options are out there for banning Butterball from your Thanksgiving table?

For starters, consider a heritage turkey. These are breeds that go back generations and are raised in a way that lets them manifest their natural characteristics, like flying, running and eating a natural diet. The result is not only an extra tasty bird, by purchasing one you’re supporting small farms committed to humane treatment of their animals. To find a heritage turkey in your area, check out Local Harvest or the Eat Well Guide.

Heritage turkeys can be pricey, though. If that’s too much for your budget but you still plan on buying a bird, Slow Food USA suggests looking for birds that are certified organic, pastured or free range.

Of course, you could always forgo the turkey question altogether. There are loads of online resources for creating a meatless Thanksgiving feast. For starters, check out tips from the folks at Meatless Monday. 

Photo by Flickr user ancapron. Used under Creative Commons license.