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Help! Turkey from the live poultry places?

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Does anyone have experience buying a turkey from the live poultry places in Queens?
I'm thinking that the freshness can't be beat, but one is unsure about the background of the birds. I called the one closest to my house, Bismillah on 55th St near 37th Ave, and they quoted me $2/lb.

Can you answer some of these questions for me, so I know whether live poultry is the way to go?

1) How's the general quality? Does the freshness really play a factor in the taste? These places are generally Halal, but does that also mean that the birds would have had a better upbringing than the average supermarket bird?

2) For this year, it will be between the live poultry place turkey, or one from the local butcher at $2.29/lb for a Jaindl or Plainview turkey (supposedly "free range"). If you've had experience with these birds, which would you recommend?

3) I am planning to brine the bird for 1-2 days. A fresh slaughtered turkey will be ~14 pounds of warmth. How does this factor in for food safety? How long would it take to chill such a bird to less than 40 degrees F?

4) I am assuming that I will be paying based on the bird's alive weight. How much of a difference is there between the living bird and one that has been dressed properly for roasting?

5) Are there any unforeseen problems with this route?

Thanks!

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  1. No idea, but please report back! Would love to be a dinner guest at your table - suckling pig and now fresh killed turkey - wow!

    4 Replies
    1. re: welle

      I am going to wimp out of getting a bird from these places for now. A quick Internet search led to several news articles regarding the dubious background of these poultry. I realize it could just be sensationalist journalism, but Thanksgiving dinner is too important to risk getting an undesirable bird. I'll probably give it a shot in a few weeks and report back then.

      I'm also looking for a place to get a fresh killed goat if you happen to be in the know.

      1. re: Joe MacBu

        The inner hound in me demanded that I get over my insecurities and not settle for yet another cold turkey. I called the NY State Agriculture and Market Inspection team in Albany and asked about inspection reports on Bismillah Live Poultry. A very helpful person told me within a minute that it had passed inspections in October and August. Relieved, I headed over to the warehouse section of Woodside tonight to get my hen.

        There was a sizable group waiting outside for their orders and several folks walking out with small bags of fresh chicken. I asked one if the stuff is good. He replied with a big grin, "Yes. Good." This ain't the cleanest place in the hood, but what do you expect from what is essentially a chicken coop? I told the man I wanted a turkey which would be 12 pounds going into the oven. He said a 15 pound live one would fit the bill.

        I was led around a head-high stack of plastic cages with white and brown chickens which formed the enclosure for the turkey pen. I was asked to pick one out of the lot of 30 or so all-white typical looking turkeys huddled around the edges (except for one alpha who was chilling out on a table). I replied that I was inexperienced at sizing a live turkey. The man then grabbed one by the leg and tied it to the scale, which spun around once: A 22 pounder which would be about 18 in the oven. Holy turkey, I didn't want one that huge, but then the rest all looked bigger. I guess I should have come sooner for the first dibs, but my turkey's not getting eaten until Saturday. I spared this one and waited a few minutes until the man finally picked another by the foot. Bingo! 16 pounds. I took it, it got tagged, and off it went in a shopping cart, out of sight. I had fifteen minutes to kill while she was killed, scalded in hot water and plucked.

        I went to the gas station to pick up some ice. When I returned, the bird was ready in a bag, with its fat tail sticking out and warm to the touch. I paid $32.50 and put the bird in the cooler.

        At home, I first washed feathers and who-knows-what from my boots, then I took the bird out. My cat went nuts. Holy smokes! They'd left the head attached (as was the heart). I had visions of how cool it would be to present it at dinner with the head on (sadly, they'd cut off the feet), then thought better of it. Perhaps next year, to more adventurous guests. I cut off the neck with shears, took out the organs and feet from the warm cavity and weighed the body: 12.5 pounds, perfect!

        She is resting until Friday in an iced 4.5% brine (with apple cider, garlic and ancho from Saveur magazine, with the salt doubled). She's then going to air dry until it's time for the oven on Saturday. I will report back on the bird's cooked qualities.

        1. re: Joe MacBu

          Dear Mr. MacBu -

          You are my hero.

          sincerely,
          EJC

        2. re: Joe MacBu

          re: goat: there are several live animal butchers advertising fresh goat on 3rd avenue in the park slope/ sunset park no-man's land. the one that i've been to is is across the street (but on the same side of the street) from rossman farms, the big fruit/veg distributor on 25th and 3rd. it's pretty large and seemed very clean (though filled with that lovely slaughterhouse aroma and definitely NOT for the squeamish), but they were so busy that we didn't get anything. there is another place on the other side of the avenue that advertises a similar range of meats (chicken, duck, quail, rabbit, goat, lamb, turkey, etc).

      2. Hey Joe - happy holidays!

        A week after the appointed date, we (OK, a few of us) are dying to know how this turned out.

        Did your fresh-killed turkey emerge from the oven like school lunch meat? Or did it rise from the brine, not quite dead, and exact a terrible revenge? Or was it the platonically scrumptious turkey that none of us has ever tasted?

        Inquiring hounds want to know :)

        1. So, this turkey turned out good, but I don't think it's for everyone.
          It roasted very evenly at 425F (but I start with the breast down and do 3 turns, finishing with the breast up) and the skin was incredibly beautiful. I pulled her out when the breast was at 153F and the thighs at 170.

          Having cooked a turkey breast earlier in the week (it was kosher, so I did not brine it), I had a fresh reference point for judging this one. The overall flavor was definitely stronger; it was the turkiest turkey I've ever had. The dark meat verged on being a little gamy, which was fine by me, but some may not appreciate it. The texture was also different from other turkeys I've had, in that it was chewier (though very moist). I guess this is what I would expect a free-range bird to be like, though I haven't had one before, nor do I know how this one roamed.

          The best is that the whole experience was very memorable.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Joe MacBu

            Sounds good, to my taste: a turkey with actual flavor.