STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Of course, turkey is a powerful symbol on Thanksgiving, and that can be problematic for people who usually eat vegetables instead of meat. NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reports.
NELL GREENFIELDBOYCE: Wayne Pacelle is head of the Humane Society of the United States. He's a vegan, which means he eats no animal products. But when he goes to spend Thanksgiving with his family...
Mr. WAYNE PACELLE (President and CEO, Humane Society of the United States): There will be some turkey that others eat, and that's - there's nothing I can do about that.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: Most vegetarians are used to this kind of social situation. Meat is everywhere. But Thanksgiving is a little different.
Mr. PACELLE: You know, I don't think there's any other American holiday that is quite so associated with killing an animal for the table.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: Pacelle says a roasted animal carcass isn't tempting for people like him who are committed to vegetarianism. But he says...
Mr. PACELLE: You know there's a large category of people who are eating less meat than they used to, called flexitarians. And I'm sure that among that group of people this may be a day where they choose to eat some meat.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: Flexitarians are part of a growing trend of people generally thinking harder about meat, whether or not to eat it, and if so, what kind is OK.
(Soundbite of turkeys gobbling)
GREENFIELDBOYCE: Turkeys can wander around a roomy pasture at Springfield Farm in Sparks, Maryland. Every November, hundreds of people come here to pick up their holiday meal.
Mr. DAVID SMITH (Owner, Springfield Farm): I'm David Smith, the owner of Springfield Farm.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: And can you tell me sort of what your typical customers are?
Mr. SMITH: I think it's more the issue of people looking to connect with their food, to put a face on it, if you will. Their concerns are local, what the livestock is fed. They want it as natural as possible. And how the livestock is treated, not only on the farm, but also how it's slaughtered.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: Those kinds of concerns are why some people just won't eat mass-produced meat.
Ms. JENNA WOGINRICH (Author, "Made From Scratch: Discovering Pleasures of a Handmade Life"): I stopped eating meat, not because I'm against devouring it, but because I didn't like where it was coming from.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: That's Jenna Woginrich, she lives on a small farm in Vermont. She's written a new book called "Made from Scratch" that describes how she grows her own vegetables.
Ms. WOGINRICH: I've been a vegetarian for over half a decade.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: At her family's Thanksgiving, she usually eats tofu instead of meat. But this year she decided to prepare for the holiday by raising her own turkey. She bought a little bird. He soon became a big, white one.
Ms. WOGINRICH: Well, I didn't name him.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. WOGINRICH: I made sure I didn't name him. And he was great. He got along great with the chickens and with all the other farm animals.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: She drove him to a nearby farm to have him killed and stored his body in her freezer. But then she ran into a problem. She says some meat-eating members of her family didn't want to consume a known animal.
Ms. WOGINRICH: The turkey situation was a big lesson for me, because you go into it way, way too self-righteous. There's a whole spectrum to this, and there's a million different viewpoints, even within one family.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: She ended up trading the turkey with someone who agreed to teach her dog to herd sheep. I called up the Farm Sanctuary in New York state. It's a farm animal protection group that runs animal shelters for livestock, plus an adopted turkey project. Tricia Barry works there. I asked her what she thought about people who call themselves vegetarians, but still plan to eat animals on special occasions.
Ms. TRICIA BARRY (Communications Director, The Farm Sanctuary): Who am I to judge or criticize someone for, you know, their journey and their path, whatever it might be.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: After all, she says, she herself went through a period of cutting back on meat, but she didn't quit cold turkey until she actually met a turkey, a bird called Cinnamon.
Ms. BARRY: And I actually gave her a belly rub, and she rested into my hands, and I felt, you know, this living, breathing, alive turkey breast.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: It reminded her of another turkey breast, the one she'd cooked for Thanksgiving the year before. She says that was the moment when she knew she had to switch from eating less meat to eating no meat. Nell Greenfieldboyce, NPR News.