Could Climate Change Ruin Thanksgiving Dinner?

Warmer temperatures could affect just about everything you’ll see on the dinner table.

By Jennifer Viegas | Wed Nov 24, 2010

Climate change could one day affect the cost and quality of dishes traditionally served for Thanksgiving Day dinner, suggests a recent paper in the journal Food Research International.

Pasty, dry turkey meat along with expensive fruits, vegetables and potatoes could be on the horizon if more variable extremes in regional weather patterns continue as a likely result of climate change, indicates author Neville Gregory.

The usual star of the Thanksgiving Day feast, roast turkey, could suffer in quality as a result.

"Climate change could affect meat quality in two ways," Gregory, a professor in animal welfare physiology at the University of London’s Royal Veterinary College, explains. "First, there are direct effects on organ and muscle metabolism during heat exposure which can persist after slaughter."

Prior studies have demonstrated that heat stress can increase the risks of what’s known as "pale, soft, exudative" (PSE) meat. According to Purdue University Animal Sciences, PSE meat "is characterized by its pale color, lack of firmness, and fluid dripping from its cut surfaces. When cooked, this meat lacks the juiciness of normal meat."

As a second climate change impact, Gregory believes "changes in livestock and poultry management practices in response to hazards that stem from climate change could indirectly lead to changes in meat quality."

Pre-conditioning broilers to heat stress to encourage better survival during transport, for example, could lead to more variable breast meat taste, appearance and texture…

The pumpkins, sweet potatoes, potatoes, grains, green beans and other plant products associated with Thanksgiving dinner could also be affected by climate change, he said.

"These foods will be sensitive to water shortages should they arise," Gregory told Discovery News. "In years when there are water shortages, their price will rise and local communities may have to import part of their needs to make up for the local shortfall in production."

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