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Oct 30, 2007 09:08 PM

Searching for Heritage Turkey [PHL]

I would like to find an alternative to the supermarket bird this thanksgiving and had heard a lot of good things about heirloom or heritage breeds. Does anyone know a farm or butcher that sells these? Any suggestions on what breeds?

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  1. Griggstown farms at the Headhouse farmer's market is taking orders for Red Bourbon turkeys. You pick it up the Wednesday before Thanksgiving at the market.

    2 Replies
      1. re: afinkle

        Absolutely! I've been raising and eating pastured heritage turkeys for nearly ten years now. I've raised Bourbon Reds, Slates and Narragansetts. There are a number of reasons they are more expensive than the free turkey you get at the grocery store for spending over $200. First, the poults (chicks) are much more expensive--sometimes as much as $9/poult. Secondly, they take longer to bring to weight since they aren't crammed 40,000 to a building with nothing to do their entire life but eat a soy-based diet full of antibiotics. Third, they fly. Unlike commercial birds that have been bred to grow gigantic breasts faster than flight feathers, heritage birds raised out on pasture need to have their flight feathers on their wings clipped at least twice. The first time isn't so hard, but when they weigh 12-18 pounds, it's quite a chore. You're paying the farmers for their time so your holiday dinner doesn't fly away. And fourth, they are eating much, much better than the commercial bird. Regardless of the bird being a heritage or commercial breed, pastured poultry can consume up to 30% of their diet from the field. That includes bugs and grubs as well as plant material. Maintaining pastures isn't a free deal. Good pasture takes a lot of hard work and investment. Farmers who are devoted to raising heritage birds also tend to feed their livestock better feeds so you can add that to the cost. Raising a decent turkey isn't easy and it isn't cheap, but the bird you put on the table for your family come Thanksgiving day will be well worth the price.

    1. The Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal Market has an order form for naturally raised, organic, or heritage breed turkeys at the White Dog Foundation website