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Nov 4, 2010 04:43 PM

Heritage Turkey worth the cost?

I'll sometimes pay the high premium for dry aged beef....or Cape Bay scallops......or milk fed veal....or even 91 octane, but these heritage turkeys, can they really be worth the added cost?

And if so, to keep this New England-centric, where do you buy yours?

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  1. I don't think so, they're too turkey-ey for me.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ratbuddy

      checkout helgers in tiverton,ri.worth the price.classic line rat......

    2. I love the flavor, but hate the price. Have yet to spring for a full bird (currently running at around $80 here in VA), but have been lucky in that a local producer around the corner from me sometimes sells heritage-breed turkey parts. The drumsticks are to die for, & are priced fairly comparable to what regular generic turkey drums cost in the supermarket. They also sell turkey cutlets, tenderloins, etc., etc. So I get my heritage-breed fix that way.

      1. I love heritage turkeys. I refer to them as gold-plated, but I 1) enjoy eating a bird that has real flavor, not just a bland background taste for the sides; and 2) like to support local farmers. The birds I've bought - Blue Slate, Bourbon Red and Spanish Black - are much leaner, often smaller than the average Butterball-TM, and tasty without quite being gamey. So once a year I happily pay the price, and if there are extras, I'll pick one up provided I have the freezer room.

        That being said, in the past I have bought my heritage turkeys from Old Maids Farm in Glastonbury, CT. I didn't get an e-mail announcing this year's offerings, and my e-mails to the farmer have yet to be answered. Is anyone in the know, and if so can you clue me in?

        5 Replies
        1. re: harrie

          There are all different ways that something can be worth the cost. When you buy heirloom breed turkey, you are supporting a local farmer. Those of us who like to eat tasty food have a much easier time finding it when there are local farms.

          So yeah, I'd say it was worth it.

          harrie, Have no idea what the deal is with your farmer, but check out Ekonk Hill Turkey Farm in Sterling. They have heirloom breeds AND killer ice cream.

          1. re: Pipenta

            I think they are absolutely worth it. First, as mentioned by others, you are supporting small independent farms. Second, it is saving/revitalizing "Dying" breeds. Third, they taste better and are better for you (both due to natural raising).

            I have done a head to head taste comparison with my entire family at Thanksgving. A heritage against a butter ball and without them knowing which was which the heritage won hands down.

            You can order through the mail at Heritage Foods USA.

            1. re: Spiritchaser

              I would expect a heritage turkey to be substantially better than a Butterball. I'm curious as to a comparison to a free-range local organic turkey. Both support small local farms, yet the price difference ($3.29/lb. vs $8.99 and up) is quite significant.

              1. re: CapeCodGuy

                You made no mention of what you were comparing so I gave you the comparison I had for reference.

                1. re: Spiritchaser

                  Oh yes, I'm sorry. Didn't mean to sound snarky. Appreciate the info and feedback.

        2. Two years ago I did a blind side-by-side with a conventional kosher turkey (often thought of as the best amongst conventional birds) and a local, free-range and heritage breed turkey. surprisingly, although many people (such as ratbuddy) assume that heritage birds have a stronger turkey-y flavor, we agreed the bird with the sweeter, milder flavor was the local/heritage one. The kosher one tasted downright gamey in comparison. We were all convinced it would be the other way around.

          A similar side-by-side of heritage and non-heritage (broad-breasted white) local, freerange birds last year was less decisive. We agreed that the heritage had a juicier, more flavorful breast but somewhat tougher dark meat. Both were delicious, just different.

          12 Replies
          1. re: celeriac

            This year I found Miss Scarlett's Blue Ribbon Farm at the farmers market in Osterville. Every week she had the best selection of fruits and veggies, many of them heirloom varieties. She also raises chickens and heritage breed turkeys. The farm is off 6A in Yarmouth. Check her website for more info.

            1. re: celeriac

              The thing about heritage turkeys is that they vary by breed and by feed. The lack of conformity in flavor is one of the appealing features, but it renders these kind of comparisons to be not generalizable, IMO. I like supporting the farmers who grow these birds in my neighborhood, so that makes it 'worth it" to me. And it is really interesting to have different flavor and texture experiences year to year, also.

              1. re: magiesmom

                The first time I picked up a heritage turkey, my farmer told me how he finished the birds with butternut squash, collard greens, turnips, etc.; at first I thought he was telling me what sides he'd be having with his meal. As he went on, I figured out he was feeding this stuff to the birds because, after all, they are what they eat. You're so right about the different flavors - with the amount of care and thought that some farmers put into their work, I am perfectly happy to pay a premium price.

                1. re: harrie

                  Terrific answers here by so many. I understand it now thanks to the responses here. Thanks to all for posting. I'm also finding it difficult to find a true heritage bird this "late" in the game. So I plan on getting an organic bird from Bonji's this year, and order a heritage earlier next year.

                  1. re: CapeCodGuy

                    I plan on getting a few Bongi's turkeys as well. I also plan to wait in line the Sunday before Thanksgiving because of the draconian policy of not letting people pre-order. Arrgh.

                  2. re: harrie

                    How nice for you. But around here - & when I say this I mean right around the corner from me - a less than 20 pound bird STARTS at $80. I'd love to be able to do it, but frankly that price for one bird - regardless of how wonderful it might be - simply doesn't work for me.

                    This year we'll be ordering our usual (like for the past 10 years) organic free-range bird from Whole Foods, which will cost us about $30 or so. It's not pumped up with "brine", has always been fabulously crisp-skinned & delicious, and the piece de resistance is that even the leftovers are always incredibly juicy. Even the white meat!! It's always been worth every penny. But $80 for a local heritage bird? Sorry. Will have to leave those to the nouveau riche around here - lol!!

                    1. re: Breezychow

                      Thanks for the, uh, kind words - but I'm anything but riche, nouveau or vieux. (On another thread, I carped about shelling out $40 for a cheesecake.) Once a year, though - and the hubby and I discuss this every year to make sure it's something to which we want to commit - we put out the cash. I'm sincerely sorry if it offends you.

                      1. re: harrie

                        It doesn't offend me at all. In fact, if anything I'm extremely envious. I just can't justify springing for an $80+ bird. Would love it if I could.

                        For us, the organic Whole Foods bird is our "once a year" treat we commit to & put out the cash for. It's simply economic levels, honey, levels. :)

                        Another factor in the equation? For 30 years our traditional Xmas dinner has been a lovely roast goose. And if you've checked goose prices lately, you'll see that that's a once-a-year treat as well economically speaking. Think along the lines of $45-$50 for a decent Xmas bird.

                        1. re: Breezychow

                          See now for me goose is way too expensive for the amount of meat. It's just a matter of priorities. I would rather go out once or twice less and spend more on the bird, others choose differently. That is why these "worth it" questions are impossible to answer globally, IMHO.

                          1. re: magiesmom

                            I've never had goose. What does it taste like (and please don't say chicken!)

                            I'm guessing a kind of cross between turkey and duck?

                            1. re: CapeCodGuy

                              Goose has a deeply rich and gamey flavor. Very fatty in a luscious way.

                              1. re: magiesmom

                                Domestic goose isn't gamey at all. And it's absolutely nothing remotely like turkey. All dark meat. It's like duck, only a bit richer. I'm Czech, & roast goose was a tradition at Xmas that I've always continued with. Loving it helps - lol!!

                                As far as the cost, the holidays are usually just my husband & myself, & that one goose provides us with at least FOUR meals apiece, so that $50 does work out to not so much per serving when you come right down to it.

                                First we have the Xmas Roast Goose with all the trimmings. Then we have leftover Roast goose with all the trimmings a few days later. Then all the leftover meat goes into my traditional New Years Day French Cassoulet, which also provides us with a couple of meals (plus a couple of lunches for me). So yes, for me the annual Xmas treat of a goose is definitely a good buy.