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Oct 12, 2009 11:44 AM

Where should I order my turkey for Thanksgiving?

I'm hosting my first Thanksgiving in Los Angeles this year. In my previous New York life, I've always ordered my turkeys fresh from a farm and was able to pick them up two days before Thanksgiving. I was wondering if anyone had any turkey recommendations for me here in LA. Is there a special farmer's market vendor that you can order turkeys from or a certain butcher anyone can recommend? Any advice is appreciated. Thanks in advance! :)

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  1. For the last several years, I've had great luck with the lovely tasting turkeys from Good Shepherd Ranch, which arrive by overnight shipment on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. (See: ) If you order one, be sure to pay close attention to the cooking advice that comes with each bird.

    1. Good question, Butterqueen....This is the year I really want a fresh turkey. I generally get pinched for time and wind up paying $$$ for an organic/heritage turkey from Whole Foods, and even though they CLAIM they are FRESH...they come frozen solid with a block of ice inside, and cook up , as frozen meat does, really dry.
      I just want a turkey like the superfresh chickens from Lilyeggs at the Farmers Market. There is nothing like a fresh bird, salted a la Judy Rodgers, and roasted. Local would be nice, if possible.

      6 Replies
      1. re: ciaolette

        I love Judy's restaurant, the Zuni Cafe, and went there often when I lived in the Bay Area. I also use her cookbook frequently and have followed her approach to salting with many different meats and dishes. I've found, however, that heavy salt -- whether from Judy's method or from traditional brining -- tends to kill the flavor of that delicate-tasting heritage turkey you just got from Good Shepherd Ranch for a couple-hundred bucks. That's why I recommend following their guidelines carefully. (If you want to discuss further, please post something on the chowhound Home Cooking board, and I'll be happy to throw in my two cents.)

        1. re: ciaolette

          I've had good luck with the birds from Whole Foods. My recomendation, if you strike out on finding a reasonably priced local producer (the prices at hertiage food usa made me gasp), is to stick with WF, but brine the bird. Brining dramatically increases your margin of error when cooking a turkey.

          1. re: ciaolette

            A fresh turkey is not frozen....the ice inside the body is what keeps it fresh while it's transported to the facility it's sold at.

            1. re: latindancer

              How , exactly do they insert the block of ice without freezing the turkey? Interesting logistics!!
              Before Wild Oats was bought by Whole Foods, I would buy the Diestel turkeys from them, at the Montana Ave location. They were fresh and amazing, really the best turkey I have ever had. salting the day I pick up, and then rinsing off the salt and letting the bird air dry for a couple hours before roasting.
              I don't think it is my cooking technique that is lacking, lol, just want to try to find the best bird....

              1. re: ciaolette

                "How, exactly do they insert the block of ice without freezing the turkey? Interesting logistics!!"

                I'm not sure why there's sarcasm involved but the fresh turkey is transported in a vehicle specialized for transporting fresh birds....temperature controlled. It think you may be exaggerating the 'block of ice' description as I've ordered the same Heritage turkey several times and have had a little ice in the cavity (definately caused by the transportation in an enclosed area that's close to freezing to ensure freshness) but nothing solid, by any means.
                I've ordered Diestel, roasted them to perfection using my own method, and I can't really say they're anything better than anything else I've used.
                I'll repeat, though, a fresh turkey is not frozen.

                1. re: latindancer

                  Once upon a time, fresh turkeys were killed, put on ice and sold right away. The tiny bit of degradation that occurred betwixt slaughter and sale actually enhanced the tenderness of the meat.

                  Nowadays, no one will sell a fresh turkey. They sell things with a legal definition of "fresh" that's a matter of a few degrees warmer storage than "frozen". You and I who live in urban areas and buy from local markets would not know the difference either in the rock hard flesh or the flavor.

                  IF someone is fortunate enough to be getting genuinely fresh birds they are fortunate indeed.

          2. I don't have time to check this out, but would appreciate the info as well.

            I Googled the following listing of poultry farms in the LA area. If anyone has time to check it out, please do so:


            1. Check out Healthy family farms at the santa monica farmer's markets

              1. I order my turkey from Bristol Farms and it is their own signature fresh turkey @ $3.49#
                I have ordered and roasted the Heritage turkey @ $7.99# and seen absolutely no difference.
                I have eaten every single type of turkey over the years and decided it's the person who knows how to cook, what to do with the turkey, how to baste it and how to roast it that makes the difference.
                There are people who can take that $7.99# turkey and turn it into shoe leather and conversely there are fabulous cooks who know how to take the frozen $1.29# turkey and turn it into the best tasting turkey in the world.
                It's all about the cook.

                2 Replies
                1. re: latindancer

                  "I have ordered and roasted the Heritage turkey @ $7.99# and seen absolutely no difference."

                  Have to say I agree with that. My SIL insisted on a Heritage turkey a couple of years ago (she paid for it, so....... whatever). I get he purity part, but taste is a whole other thing related to the cook. She was happy, though, and that's what being married to her sister for 41 years is partly about.

                  1. re: Midlife

                    I tend to listen to the butcher and the chefs who frequent the market I purchase my turkey from. I've used the Heritage. My cooking skills were learned from my Grandmother whose Thanksgiving dinners remain unmatched by friends, personal chefs and every other acquaintance who has come and gone throughout the years. She practiced French cooking methods and taught them to me. I say this because there is not a piece of meat or a vegetable or otherwise that I'm not accustomed to preparing.
                    I'm not sure what the intrigue about Heritage is. There's a certain amount of pretention that goes along with purchasing them. For many I believe their price assumes 'better than any other turkey'.
                    Regardless, the chefs and butchers I know agree that it's the preparation, the knowingness and the experience of roasting a bird that determines the final outcome.