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Where's everyone buying their Thanksgiving turkey?

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This will be my first year buying (and cooking!) a turkey for thanksgiving here in Boston, and I'm woefully uninformed about where to grab one of the suckers. I'd love to get a nice organic local one for me and the misses (8-10lbs), so I figured I'd shop around a little bit on here.

Buying a local turkey for Thanksgiving this year? When and where?

(My apologies if this has already been discussed -- I couldn't find it)

Thanks!

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  1. Generally it is a bit of a challenge to get a turkey that small, even if you are not looking for locally grown organic birds. If you are willing to give up the requirement for the bird to be local, you can almost certainly get a small organic turkey if you pre-order from Whole Foods. If local is very important to you, you may want to Google for turkey farms here in MA (or at least farms that raise turkeys among other things). A number sell directly to consumers. My turkey will come from my meat CSA, which sells its turkeys only to its regular members. If their turkey flock is like other turkey flocks, you may have to settle for a larger bird. I just got an email from them warning that the birds will almost all be in the 20-30 pound range.

    5 Replies
    1. re: PinchOfSalt

      That's interesting. I'm only used to the bigger birds (20-30lbs) myself, but that's always been for my family back home. The smallest birds Lionette's is selling (13-16lbs) come from CT, but they're really expensive (I think?) at like $4.95/lb. Whole Foods is selling 8-10lb birds, and we might end up going that route. It's mostly the sustainability factor. We just don't want to be ordering some mystery whole turkey from Shaw's.

      1. re: PinchOfSalt

        We asked for a small turkey (one of their heirloom organic varieties) from Stillman's last year, and it was in fact so small that the roasting chicken we bought at the same time weighed slightly more! It was fantastic. But I suspect that all of the Stillman turkeys have already been spoken for this year. Less than three weeks before Thanksgiving is actually slightly late in the game, I'm afraid.

        1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

          Wow, BFP, it's good to know that Stillman's does produce small turkeys for those who want them. Was your bird fresh or frozen? Unfortunately, you are almost certainly right about the need to pre-order earlier in advance of T-Day than we are now.

          Just FYI, my meat CSA (Chestnut Farms, love 'em) is charging a flat price for its turkeys, regardless of size: $75. That works out to about $3/pound for a fresh turkey that was raised free range and as far as I understand it meets all (or maybe almost all) the requirements for being called organic, short of getting the certification. The turkeys are delivered fresh. Yeah, that is more than the approximately $1/pound one would have to pay at MB for a fresh factory bird, but sustainability, support of local small-scale agriculture, and knowing that my turkey had a good turkey life have value beyond what goes onto the dinner plate, at least to me.

          1. re: PinchOfSalt

            The Stillman's turkeys are very fresh indeed. The heritage birds are VERY small - I think last year we had requested a 12-15 pound bird and they actually gave us TWO wee things that came in at about 6.5 pounds each. As Barmy mentioned, I spontaneously decided to buy a whole chicken at the same time when I picked up the turkeys, and it was a leviathan that significantly outweighed either of the turkeys.

            We have had both Stillman's regular turkeys and their heritage birds - both have been far superior to anything we've ever had before, including good-quality fresh turkeys from WF, but the heritage turkeys are extremely expensive for what you get and we've reverted to the conventional broad-breasted breed this year.

          2. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

            stillmans does still, at least as of yesterday, have regular turkeys for thanksgiving. they do appear to be out of the heirloom ("heritage") varieties, which are more expensive and smaller.

        2. We buy our turkey at Wilson Farms. They source from a farm in Vermont. The birds are delicious. We pick up all of our veggies when we get the turkey. They are taking reservations now, but always have extras for people who forget to pre-order.

          -----
          Wilson Farm
          10 Pleasant St, Lexington, MA 02421

          2 Replies
          1. re: smtucker

            I was at Wilson's yesterday and the turkey order taker guy said they were from PA. Just thought you might like to know, though I can't imagine it makes any difference.

            1. re: kate used to be 50

              Guess they have changed their provider. Thanks for the heads up.

          2. I've been buying mine from Sulmona's in the North End. I think we had a 12 lb'er last year. They buy them fresh killed from a farm in NH and I've been very happy with them. Moderate prices..order in advance.

            We used to buy from Savenor's,who also have a NH farm; but at much higher prices. We really didn't find the big price differential was worth it.

            2 Replies
            1. re: 9lives

              Just talked to Sulmona's. Their turkeys are from the Carolinas and he didn't know anything about how they were raised or care for. Wow. But yes, cheaper - $2-$2.10/lb.

              1. re: hawkeye

                Ms 9 ordered a 12-14 lber yesterday from Sulmona. They were petty busy and didn't really have time to talk about the turkey's background.

                I just looked at Savenor's site. They range fron $4.50 lb for local to $14/lb for wild turkey raised in Texas.

                savenorsmarket.com

                I buy a lot of my beef or chicken at Sav's; but I don't find the payup to be worthwhile for the turkey; particularly as I've enjoyed Sulmona's the last few years.

                I'm also carless in downtown, so options like Wilson Farms, Owens or Russo's aren't really practical for me.

                I suppose I wouldn't mind trying the wild Texas birds but not willing to pay for it..:)

                -----
                Wilson Farm
                10 Pleasant St, Lexington, MA 02421

            2. Owen's Poultry Farm. Fantastic flavor but rather expensive at $8.50/lb.

              -----
              Owens Poultry Farm
              585 Central Ave, Needham, MA 02494

              2 Replies
              1. re: Luther

                I'll be going to Owens as well. I find that the giant ones get a bit dried out (could be my technique) so I've taken to slipping slices of fatback and herbs between the skin and the breast.

                1. re: nsenada

                  I think roasting a whole bird >15 lb is pretty much fruitless however you do it. Either cut it up, go sous vide, or just use a smaller turkey.

              2. Ordered ours from Russo's, who source from Stonewood Farm in Vermont. Have had good luck with them before. Free range and fairly local, though not quite as pampered and responsible as some other choices in the area. $2.98/lb and I think they start with 12lb. birds, though I seem to have misplaced my flyer. It's annoying that the details aren't on their website.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Spenbald

                  I got a flyer in my bag today. (FYI, Russo's tends to be capital-D Dead early Monday afternoons...)

                  $2.98 a pound, from Stonewood Farm in VT. All natural (no antibiotics, hormones, preservatives, nitrates/nitrites), ranging from 12-14 to 28-30 lbs. Phone number to order is 617-923-1500.

                2. Seven Acre Poultry Farm in North Reading raises their own turkeys and chickens (they have capons, too). While I love their chickens/capons, the one time I got a fresh turkey there, decades ago, I was unhappy with the result. The thick skin never got crispy and even though the meat was the right temperature and remained moist, it was rubbery/chewy. When I bemoaned this to my mother in Florida, she said the bird was TOO fresh and that post-mortem enzymatic activity tenderizes the meat.

                  Anyone considering a heritage breed for the first time should read up on them first - they are not to everyone's liking.

                  Last year Trader Joe's sold fresh, natural, pre-brined turkeys - I don't know if they are doing so this year.

                  I learned long ago that if you want the best meat-to-bone ratio, your turkey should be at least 16 lbs. Above that weight, skeletons don't vary much in size, so the heavier the bird, the less bone.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: greygarious

                    The TJ's birds will be available starting Nov. 13, and are $1.79 a pound for the all natural pre-brined, or $2.29 for the Glatt's kosher.

                    1. re: greygarious

                      Trader Joe's turkeys at $1.79 a pound?

                      Given negative reviews on 'supermarket bought' turkeys, and relatively positive reviews on TJ's, and most other birds, the Trader Joe's brined bird sounds pretty sensible.
                      Keep it in the ice box (aka fridge) until stuffing?

                      Given our Scottish heritage, for a fresh turkey, pre brined, sounds like a very attractive option.

                      OK, now, what's the best easy stuffing (with sausage)?

                      Thanks gang, and thank you greygarious!

                      Dewey

                      -----
                      Trader Joe's
                      1427 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02476

                      1. re: deweyweber54

                        You can find some specifics about the TJ's birds on their website home page. Yes, you can keep it in the fridge. Many "fresh" turkeys are actually close to frozen inside and need some refrigerator time to thaw. I made one last year but had a temperature problem with the oven so it wound up quite overcooked. Therefore I can't comment fairly on quality other than to say that my particular bird might have been part pelican - seriously large, long wings and a fairly thin breast. I have no idea if they are all that way but it may be that TJ's "all natural" bird is from a more natural breed that is built more like a wild turkey than the Dolly Parton types bred by major poultry farms.

                        Check the Home Cooking board for stuffing/dressing recipes. There are loads of them.

                        1. re: greygarious

                          2008 thread on TJ's turkeys: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/572836

                  2. Bongi's Turkey Roost in Duxbury. Fresh kill. "Raised for Quality, Sold on Merit!".

                    1. For that size, a capon from Mayflower Poultry in East Cambridge would be tastier than a turkey (I love turkey, but capon is better at that size point IMO).

                      1. All - Not sure how to broach the subject, and risking being bombarded by posts, but is there really that much of a difference between a regular turkey bought at the supermarket versus a designer, or fresh turkey?
                        Seems like fresh/local costs anywhere from $3.99/lb to $8.99/lb. Supermarket turkeys run from $.69/lb to about $1.29/lb. So if a 12 pound fresh/local turkey costs $70, is it that much better than a 12 pound supermarket turkey that might cost $12?

                        Fire away!

                        Dewey

                        12 Replies
                        1. re: deweyweber54

                          There are certainly foods that I think it's silly to overpay for. But having gotten fresh, local, and in some cases heritage turkeys for the last several years, I can say beyond a shadow of the doubt that you get what you pay for. I would never again get a supermarket turkey: I'd rather not get a turkey at all if that were the only option.

                          1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                            I am looking forward to seeing the comparison this year. We ordered ours from our CSA (Chestnut Farms). In the past, I usually have gotten the cheapest, frozen turkey from market basket. I brine them in a brine from Chris Schlesinger and martha stewart. It's always been fantastic. One year I ordered an organic/ natural blah blah blah from Whole Foods that cost me a fortune. I need to a get a large bird, I usually host about 13 - 16 people. It was awful, same brine everything. An absolutely awful tasting bird. So I went back to my market basket mainstay and just tried to ignore my conscious that was reminding me of what an awful existence this bird has had and how I hate to support industrial agriculture. This year, a bit more money in our pocket, I thought I would splurge for the CSA bird. I'm really looking forward to it!

                            1. re: trishaluna

                              Here is a taste test from todays Denver Post, and I think you have the right idea brining by it yourself.
                              http://www.denverpost.com/lifestyles/...

                              I personally don't care for a whole turkey unless it's deep fried. I think turkey in general is bland no matter what you do to it.
                              My family usually serves duck and lamb at are holiday gatherings as it is a tradition that I remember from my grandparents and parents and continued now with my brothers and sister.

                              1. re: Infomaniac

                                Info - Great link to the Denver Post.

                                Thanks.

                                Bland is what we're trying to avoid, even with good stuffing. We'll check and see if the bird has been brined.

                                Deep frying a turkey is kind of scary, although we'd love to try it sometime.
                                Understand the result is a spectacular bird, but the massive amounts of oil, propane burner, stands and stuff would most likely result in calls to the local fire department. Trying to keep the peace.

                                Duck and Lamb for Thanksgiving or other holidays? Sounds great!

                                Pray tell, how do you all prepare duck and lamb for gatherings?

                                Dewey

                                1. re: deweyweber54

                                  Duck is roasted with fresh lemon juice all over and served with a warm cranberry relish. Lamb is done grilled over coal for Thanksgiving and oven roasted for Christmas. Slight variations depending on who's hosting.

                              2. re: trishaluna

                                Thanks Barmy - Love your reviews and comments on the board.

                                Agree that fresh and local may be best, but at what price? What makes a local turkey necessarily taste better tasting than a supermarket turkey?

                                Planning on brining a supermarket turkey for now. Not terribly pleased with the whole supermarket processed turkey thing, but is there really a better local alternative that justifies paying six times more for a local product?

                                Trish, Thanks as well. Let us know how your Chestnut bird works out.

                                We're thinking about a fresh or frozen bird from the market. BTW, Bob's turkey farm in Lancaster is a favorite of ours, but never had a fresh bird from them. Their Turkey pies, however, are great.

                                Cheers!

                                Dewey

                                1. re: deweyweber54

                                  Birds raised on a small, local farm might differ from factory birds in a number of ways:

                                  - the breed
                                  - what they ate
                                  - how long it took them to reach selling weight
                                  - how much exercise they got

                                  Maybe there are more differences, but I am not a poultry farmer. Even so, these things seem pretty logical to me. Just as tomatoes that have been bred to ship well may not have the best flavor (because that is a lesser goal in the breeding process), turkeys that are bred to be healthy and grow fast in a factory may not have the best flavor. I can imagine that the same might hold true for birds that are confined compared with birds that have better developed muscles due to the opportunity to strut and even run around in the great outdoors. The proof is in the eating. The chicken I get from Chestnut Farm CSA has so much more flavor than a supermarket chicken (even Bell and Evans). We have given up a lot in the name of inexpensive protein.

                                2. re: trishaluna

                                  You will love the Chestnut Farms turkey - it really is an appreciably better tasting bird. FWIW, though. we dry brine.

                              3. re: deweyweber54

                                You have a good point. I have had both tasty and bland generic, cheap turkeys from the supermarket. If you think about it, you can't reasonably expect a particular bird to taste precisely like another individual bird - to some extent, it's a crapshoot. If the first "Grimbelshratch" turkey you roasted was delicious, you'll probably swear by them and proclaim that you'll never have a different kind. If you happened to get a bad example of a Grimbelshratch the first time around, there won't be a second time. The choice of bird is often as much an ethical one as a flavor one.

                                1. re: deweyweber54

                                  It's like the difference between Mondavi coastal chardonay and Puligny Montrachet.

                                  1. re: trufflehound

                                    we do two turkeys every year and "taste test" blind comparisons. The heirloom bird from whole foods, that we brine, and cook on our weber grill outside, wins hands down. second favorite is the vermont organic bird from russos (cheaper too) - also brined. even a super market bird improves with brining but, as the supermarket bird lost every year, we gave it up several years ago and now just pay the money for the heirloom and the russos birds.

                                  2. re: deweyweber54

                                    Dewey, here are my notes from a side-by-side taste test comparing an organic heirloom turkey with a supermarket kosher bird last year: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5761...

                                    After the dramatic difference, it's hard for me to imagine serving a supermarket turkey.

                                  3. Does anyone have any experience getting fresh, uncooked turkeys from Gerard Farms in Marshfield?

                                    http://www.gerardfarmonline.com

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: mangorita

                                      We bought fresh birds from Gerards years ago when they used to raise their own and I lived closer. I'm pretty sure they don't raise their own birds anymore. I think Bongi's (10 min away?) is worth consideration. All natural, grown on site, tasty.....good info here.......http://bongis.com/about.htm

                                    2. I'm going to join the folks that ask if at that size, a turkey is worth it.
                                      For two, we generally get an 8 poundish roasting chicken, and there are a lot more options for local and organic, plus not as much of a hoopla in making reservations etc. I think last year I grabbed one at Savenor's on Wednesday, mainly because I couldn't make it out to Wilson farms..

                                      1. Concord Prime and Fish is special ordering Heritage breed Bourbon Red as the Heirloom variety. He is also offering organic free-range from PA.

                                        In years past I have ordered Organic from Whole Foods, and have been happy enough with quality. But I was put off when I asked and was told they would source from Iowa and PA. When I picked it up, my bird said California on the bag. At that point I asked if they had one from Pennsylvania or Iowa available. They went in the back and brought me the exact same California turkey but this time in a shopping bag. One of those moments when I choose my battles. I let it go because it was a madhouse and I wanted to get home...

                                        1. The new Sherman Market in Union Square posted this on Twitter on the 7th: "We will be ordering free range turkeys from Misty Knoll on Friday. Come and talk to us about what sort of bird you need and we'll hook it up"

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: hckybg

                                            I've never had a Misty Knolls turkey but they are almost the only chicken I eat any more, fantastic.. so I imagine they grow a good turkey.,

                                            Savenor's carries their chickens.

                                            http://www.mistyknollfarms.com/

                                            1. re: 9lives

                                              This is all very encouraging! I've ordered a Misty Knolls turkey through Brown Boar Farm which has been doing almost-monthly deliveries to Holly Hill Farm in Cohasset, MA. (phew!)

                                              http://www.mistyknollfarms.com/
                                              http://www.brownboarfarm.com/
                                              http://www.hollyhillfarm.org/

                                              1. re: 9lives

                                                A few years ago I got a 12lb heritage breed from Heritage Foods and I remember it costing around $140 with shipping. It fed about 6 people tops and I was dying to love it. I didn't. It cooked extremely quickly and had very little meat, dark or white. It also had very little flavor. Since then I've done Misty Knoll every year. I brine the breasts, then roast them on cedar planks at about 200 degrees to an internal temperature of 155. I braise the legs separately. It comes out like deli turkey, so I can actually manage to enjoy the breast meat.

                                            2. With the exception of naughtwaitress, no one has mentioned WF. In the past, I have bought their brined turkey, and thought it was ok. I will admit to my sister-in-law making a better brined turkey which was from Gerard's. I don't know the name of the farm. I don't know where my friend's get their turkey, which is now the tradition in my house. She does prepare it with a plum wine glaze that is FABULOUS!!

                                              1. Bob's in Medford has signs for fresh turkeys, as well as a fully prepared Thanksgiving dinner available for pickup until the day before Thanksgiving. They were "native farm-raised".

                                                1. Gerard's Turkey Farm in Framingham. Going with just the bone-n breast this year. Gerard's offers everything you need (foodwise) for the big day.

                                                  http://www.gerardfarm.com/index.html

                                                  1. This is my first year serving turkey too!! I ordered mine from N. Andover.

                                                    K and M farm. They had a 10lb for me. Call them up and ask

                                                    http://www.kandmfarm.com/

                                                    1. Been getting mine at Verrill Farm in Concord for the last ten years. Chose your size from 10-12 pounds, up to the enormous birds. Pick up the day before Thanksgiving.

                                                      -----
                                                      Verrill Farm
                                                      11 Wheeler Rd, Concord, MA, MA 01742

                                                      1. Raymond's turkey farm in Methuen has it for $3.09 lb