It’s Thanksgiving time — Do you know where your turkey came from?

_________ Thanksgiving season

‘Tis time to slow down and pay attention to the turkey you serve. Do you know where it came from?
     Options for the turkey you bring to the table include conventional or non-conventional, and the difference is tremendous.
     Here are distinctions, and how they effect the quality of the turkey you and your guests taste.

Conventional — most familiar
     The most familiar turkey on tables today are the ones prominent in the supermarket case, ready to be plucked up, transported home and tossed like a football in the icebox, to stay till preparation time.
Broad Breasted White Turkeys     These turkeys are raised conventionally, mostly on factory farms. Yet some small business farms elect the similar practices.
     These are White Broad Breasted turkeys, that have been bred to grow large and grow fast. They are conceived by artificial insemination, raised among thousands, and fed antibiotics in their water. Their beaks are clipped. At 12 to 18 weeks age, they reach market weight, and are sent to slaughter.
     ‘Twas in the 1950s, that the conventional turkeys we know today began to be bred to produce extra white meat, and began to be factory-farmed to meet high demands to put turkey on the family table.

Heritage Turkeys -- Bourbon RedNon-Conventional — most traditional
     Before World War II, and back to the original Thanksgiving times, turkeys that ended up on the family supper table had been indigenous to the region and free to graze.
     Today, some small farm establishments offer traditional options including “Heritage Turkeys.” These are turkeys of select historic breeds that still exist today.  Heritage Turkeys were bred over hundreds of years for beauty, offering a good yield of meat, and delicious flavor. They were bred to be self-sustaining, able to graze and hardy enough to be herded to the market.
     Farmers who raise traditional Heritage Turkeys honor traditional methods. The turkeys mate naturally, and are bred true to their genetics.  They are not treated with antibiotics. They have room to roam, run, and fly. They reach prime weight at 24 to 30 weeks.
     Some small farmers offer White Broad Breast Turkeys that are organic, or free range.
     Non-conventional turkeys cost more than conventional turkeys, as traditional techniques require individualized care. Yet the resulting quality and flavor make them “a different animal” that many folks find worth it.

The Green Romantic

The Green Romantic

Love it all the way to the table
     For those presenting turkey on the Thanksgiving table, this Green Romantic advocates choosing non-conventional. Here’s the scoop.
     Conventional White Broad Breasted turkeys were bred to produce more white meat, and to be disproportionate to their predecessors build. It made it hard for them to walk, made them weak, and prone to diseases. Therefore they’re fed antibiotics. These antibiotics make it all the way to the meat on the table.
     Most non-conventional turkeys are raised with high quality of life.  They are not fed antibiotics at-all. What makes it to the table is a turkey that had a respected life, and that has a true, traditional turkey taste.
     Knowing the turkey you serve is an elegant decision, and may present an engaging conversation.

How to find your select, non-conventional turkey
      Essentially, you want a free-range turkey with nothing added to it — no antibiotics, no preservatives, nothing. Ask your grocer, or local farmer what choices they offer.

Sure sources
Natural Grocers  is a family-owned chain that has Midwest, Southwest and West United States locations. They feature Mary’s Turkeys as Thanksgiving season selections. Reserve a turkey online or in store. Reservations are accepted until November 13, 2016. After that, some stores will have Mary’s Turkeys available in store.
     Find more information here.
     Find the Natural Grocers store locator here.
— Mary’s Turkeys is a family-owned farm that offers Organic, Free-Range and Heritage Turkeys that are available throughout the United States. All their products are non-GMO Verifed. They even make their own non-GMO feed for their poultry. Find more information, including store locations to find Mary’s Turkey, here.
Local farmers are a good bet to finding your quality turkey.
—– The website Local Harvest offers a fabulous search engine for local farmers and meat processors. More information here.

*** photos provided by Mary’s Turkeys and Caveny Farm.

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