Gobble, Gobble

posted on November 5, 2006 at 6:06 am

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. I have been reading all the magazines and watching my favorite PBS cooking shows for some ideas on what I am going to do with my bird. I was shocked to see the chefs on America’s Test Kitchen using a Butterball turkey. The horror. Yes, I am a food snob. I prefer my turkey without the saline injections thank you very much. There is a reason I go do most of my shopping from local farmers and subscribe to a CSA. It is not for the fashion of it all either. I just like my food to be clean.

I am opting to get a heritage turkey this year (bought mine from Heritage Foods USA–link below). They are fresh and never frozen. I am not going to be in town so I ordered from a website that delivers them overnight by 11/21. I would buy local otherwise. Yes, it is a bit more expensive ($119 including shipping for an 8-10 lb bird) but so worth it on so many levels.

What are heritage turkeys? Here is a small blurb from the Sustainable Table website on what heritage means:

There is a movement to reintroduce different varieties of turkeys back to the public. Many of these birds originated here in the United States . Groups like Slow Food USA and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy are working to re-introduce genetically diversified varieties of animals, including turkeys, that were raised years ago. These animals are often referred to as heritage breeds. Heritage turkeys are raised outdoors, freely roam on pasture, and eat the varied diet nature intended them to eat, unlike most turkeys today that are raised indoors in confinement and are fed grains, fillers and supplements like antibiotics. Not only do heritage turkeys taste better, they are genetically diverse, which is extremely important. The factory farmed Broadbreasted Whites, 99% of all turkeys, are genetically the same, which means an illness could spread through that breed and wipe them out. By raising genetically diverse turkeys, we are ensuring the survival of the species. Whereas conventional supermarket turkeys can be tasteless and dry, heritage birds raised outdoors are juicy and succulent and taste the way a turkey is supposed to taste.

Now, you don’t have to buy a heritage bird. You could opt to get a widely available sustainable and/or organic bird. From the Sustainable Table website:

If you aren’t ready yet to buy a heritage turkey, or can’t find one, your other option is to buy an organic and/or sustainable bird. An organic turkey is certified by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and must be raised under strict guidelines, no antibiotics, no growth enhancers, only organic feed, and the animals must be given access to outdoors. The animals can be a heritage breed, or the more common Broadbreasted White.

Farmers who raise sustainable turkeys are not overseen by any group or agency, and have no legal guidelines to follow, though many actually exceed the USDA organic standards when raising their birds. Sustainable farmers look to preserve the land, treat their animals and workers humanely, and help support the local community. Sustainable turkeys can be a heritage breed, or can also be the Broadbreasted White.

Where can you buy these birds? I’ve made a quick and dirty list. Please add your own comments if you have any other sources.

Heritage Foods USA

Local Harvest

Eat Well Guide

Muss and Turner’s

Whole Foods

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One comment

  • Re: Gobble, Gobble
    posted by: Laurie Moore · November 13, 2006  10:55 AM

    Hi Jennifer, we love your website and all you are doing to spread the word about locally grown food! Wanted to let your readers know that Farmers’ Fresh still has locally grown pastured Turkeys available for Thanksgiving at $4 per pound. Send me an email if you would like delivery details for this Wednesday November 15th or Wednesday the 22nd!

    Laurie Moore, Farmers’ Fresh

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