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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: http://www.heritagefoodsusa.com/ ) 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.

                2. Albertson's is pretty good. Have to preorder. Fresh means you have to use it within 3 days and ice crystals can form during transport. Where frozen is just that. Many atest that frozen tastes better because it is flash frozen. Unless you get your turkey just slaughtered. No matter what , your refrigerator comes into play with all of these types. I beleive that how it is prepared and cooked makes all the difference now days..

                  1. Thank you all for your input! I'm a little sad that it seems like it will be difficult to get a nice fresh turkey this year. And I cannot see ordering a heritage bird- they are just so expensive! I'm going to try the Santa Monica Farmer's Market tomorrow and see if I have any luck with the poultry farmer and placing an order with them. I'll let you all know how that goes.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: butterqueen

                      place an order with healthy family farms at santa monica farmer's market tomorrow. they take orders for fresh turkeys every year.

                      1. re: budlit

                        We always get a kosher turkey because they are already brined and come out juicy. I use charlies kosher delicatessen on Pico. Let Herschel or Freddy know what size you want and they'll have it ready.

                        (310) 271-2472

                        9124 W Pico Blvd
                        Los Angeles, CA 90035

                    2. Unless you are willing to pay the ridiculous price of having a turkey flown in (which undoubtedly wa frozen before they shipped it) my bird of choice since childhood and having cooked my own as an adult is Huntsinger. Go to your local market eary, tell them you want a "fresh" Huntsinger and approximate size. You will be getting in my estimation the best bird possible. After that as one of the other posters pointed out if you know how to cook the bird it will turn out great.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: Hughlipton

                        Hugh, I've always enjoyed your posts, but please don't spread misinformation. Unless Heritage Foods USA is lying through its Web teeth, their fresh turkeys have never been frozen. And they certainly show no evidence of it when they arrive from FedEx overnight in an insulated box with cold packs.

                        Moving on to price: yes, ~$9/lb. for the largest birds is expensive compared to workaday fresh or frozen turkeys at FILL_IN_NAME_OF_SUPERMARKET_CHAIN, but it's only about a buck more than the price given in this thread for Bristol Farms heritage turkeys, which some here report as undistinguished. The HFUSA cost per-person competes even better with the top-of-the-line dry-aged prime beef, Kurobuta pork, or Provimi veal (or that $18/lb. spiny lobster under discussion in a nearby thread) that you might serve at other special dinners.

                        About the Bristol Farms heritage birds, I cannot say, but each Thanksgiving Day for four years running I've had two dinners (don't ask) and have tasted a significant difference in flavor and texture between supermarket-quality turkeys with various relatives and mine from Heritage Foods (whose carcass later makes an outstanding stock, by the way). If you follow HFUSA guidelines, don't drown the delicate flavor in brine or strong seasonings that neuter taste subtleties, and roast carefully to no more than 160 degrees (it gets there faster than expected), you'll have a juicy and delicious bird that our great-grandparents would have recognized as real turkey.

                        See the Heritage Web site ( www.heritagefoodsusa.com ) for both helpful information and the usual propaganda.

                        1. re: Harry Nile

                          Harry, I certainly was not talking about the heritage farm turkeys but ordering from websites that fly their birds in some of which have been quite good. So if I spread misinformation, it was not intended, but for which I apologize. What we post here should be accurate as we all rely on one another for good information. I have never had one brought in from Heritage but now you have peaked my interest.

                          1. re: Harry Nile

                            Harry, Thank you for your informative post, and link. I looked at the Heritage and think I am going to try one of these. The price isn't as bad as I thought, and I like the idea of it appearing on my doorstep! it saves me hauling a turkey around last minute shopping. Since you have ordered a few, I wonder what your thoughts are about the sizing. I have a small (4 people) dinner this year, so don't need a big bird, but I think for the pricing the 10-12 pound sounds like a better idea than the smallest size. Any thoughts?

                            1. re: ciaolette

                              ciaolette, I'm very sorry I missed your follow-up question! It's probably too late, but my recommendation is to get the biggest bird feasible, because larger turkeys generally cook more uniformly and predictably. Looking back at my records I find that I've ordered 12-14 lbs. twice and 14-16 lbs. twice (including this year, even for a small group). The leftovers are great, and the carcass makes a subtle broth for soup.

                              I reiterate that, in my experience, the Heritage Foods USA turkeys have cooked faster than expected, so keep a close eye on the prize.

                              1. re: Harry Nile

                                Thanks for your answer, I do appreciate it. I am getting a 12-14 lb for now, if only because I will be cooking just for four, and doing it in the mini Magic chef oven in an airstream trailer! And, blasphemy!! I am deconstructing my bird a la Mark Bittman. The night before I plan to "bone " the bird, and use the carcass and wings for broth. I plan to remove the breasts, skin on, and salt with herbs, Remove the dark meat, whole legs and slow roast them with apples, then place the breast over them in the pan and WITH an inserted temp gauge which I have purchased just for this, roast the breasts just to 159 degrees, remove all and rest, make gravy from drippings and broth. i am really looking forward to this turkey!!!!

                                1. re: ciaolette

                                  My God, what a plan! Here I am with my simple suggestions, and it turns out I'm talking to Julia Child.

                                  Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, ciaolette. An Airstream trailer sounds like a fine place to have a great heritage turkey -- best of luck.

                        2. We had a good free range turkey last year from Shelton's Farm which is located in Pomona and we are able to get it through Victor's Meat market in Palms.

                          If we are getting turkey this year, its the one we'll get.

                          Shelton's Poultry - Pomona

                          Victor's Meats & Delicatessen
                          10002 National Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90034

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Mattapoisett in LA

                            Hi Mattapoisett,

                            Thanks for the info. Since Shelton is in Pomona (local to L.A.), did your Turkey come fresh (or was it frozen)? Thanks.

                            1. re: exilekiss

                              Yes, But USDA Standards say a fresh bird can be held to a temperature as low as 26 degrees Fahrenheit [below Water freezing temperature but not below protein freezing Temps] So the bird needed a little thawing which was taken care of in the Overnight brine I did.

                              1. re: Mattapoisett in LA


                                Do you recall how much per pound you paid for the Shelton turkey?


                                1. re: Wolfgang

                                  I think it was between $2-3 a lb. I called Victor's and they will have the Shelton's this year but have not been given a price yet.

                                  Edit: I checked my bank statement from Last year and the bird was 39.99 and I think it was a 13 lber

                          2. If you end up not going to the market, I do have Healthy Family Farms e-mail address. I have bought 3 turkeys from them and they have all been excellent.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Sweettuth

                              I would love if you gave me Healthy Family Farm's email address. I went to the market yesterday and they weren't there, probably due to the weather. Thanks so much!

                              1. re: butterqueen

                                Their e-mail address is: healthyfamilyfarms@gmail.com

                            2. Just want to echo the advice you got to go to Healthy Family Farm. I have visited the farm personally and I buy all my poultry and eggs from them. They are a great resource and your turkey will be incredibly fresh, sustainably raised, pastured, and all that good stuff.

                              Here is what HFF said in their most recent email blast regarding turkeys:

                              Turkey Alert!
                              We are taking orders for Thanksgiving and holiday turkeys. If you want a local, pasture-raised, truly free-range and organic turkey for the holiday, place your order soon. We only have as many as we started raising months ago, and when they're gone, they're gone – don't be left turkeyless!

                              Orders are taken at the market only – it's a $25 deposit at the time of your order.

                              If you're in LA, pickup will be the day before Thanksgiving – our truck will be at the Santa Monica Wednesday market. If you're in other areas, we will bring your turkey to the farmer's market on the day closest to, and BEFORE, Thanksgiving. If you have any questions, check with your farmer's market!

                              Small (12-16 lb)
                              Medium (16-18 lb)
                              Large (18-20 lb)
                              Huge (20 lb and up)

                              All turkeys are $4.25 per pound (just like our chickens).
                              # # #

                              Good luck getting your turkey, and do let us know how you like whatever you wind up buying!

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: sablouwho

                                Trader Joe's sold a pre-brined turkey last year, that ran about $2-3 a lb. I had it at two different places and cooked one myself. They were universally moist, tender and VERY turkey-like. I'm looking to get another this year.

                                1. re: Steve2 in LA

                                  Last year was my first TJ's turkey and everybody commented it was the best ever. juicy, moist, and elicious. $1.79 pound.

                              2. Hands down Shelton's in Pomona- the BEST fresh turkeys in the area. I get mine from Wolfe's Market in Claremont.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: foostersmom

                                  I also like Shelton's and get mine from Erewhon on Beverly between Fairfax & LaBrea. And for the past four years use DeLaurentiss' Raffy's sausage and chestnut dressing

                                2. Very good fresh turkeys are the one's from Diestel Farms in Northern California. They are distributed by a number of vendors in So. Cal. such as Jim's Fallbrook Market, How's, Gelsons and the Farmer's Poultry Market at the LA Farmers Market (3rd/Fairfax). Go to their site to find other vendors (www.diestelturkey.com) and the story of their company. They are shipped in fresh the weekend before Thanksgiving and can be picked up Mon., Tues. or Wed.

                                  Diestel Farms has three lines -- range grown, Heidi's Organic and American Heritage. You order by gender and weight range such as a 16-18 lb. hen. The range grown is usually about $2.50/lb.

                                  1. I have heard from food professionals that Diestel Turkeys are the best. Available at Gelson's. Whole Foods and other places:


                                    1. I just ordered my Diestel from Whole Foods. I've never had one before, so I can't say anything about it, but I did find an online order form, if that's helpful to anyone:


                                      They had organic, non-organic free range, pre-brined, and kosher choices.

                                      Picked the location/time/date to pick up and there was no deposit required.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Azizeh

                                        Diestel turkeys are very good--I've ordered them for years. I usually order them from How's market in Pasadena. I think it's under $3/lb.

                                      2. Last year we opted for a Mary's free range turkey and were very, very happy with it- so much so that we will get one this year, too. We got it at Whole Fools. They also offer the Mary's Organic bird (as well as Mary's Heritage bird).

                                        FWIW, if the Healthy Family Farms turkey (mentioned in posts above) is anything like their chicken it's sure to be excellent.

                                        1. Costco...Fresh 100% Natural Foster Farms Young Turkeys, 89 cents/pound.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: monku

                                            Anybody hear about Samuel's Ranch Turkey? I hear they're pretty good.

                                            1. re: monku

                                              what exactly do they mean by "100% natural"?