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Aug 23, 2011 02:57 AM

What kind of turkey to buy, & where?

I'm coming over from the UK for Thanksgiving for my brother, and want to buy the turkey (which I've persuaded him to brine).
I know what kind of turkeys to buy in the UK and where, but I'd like suggestions for buying in the US.
He lives near Asheville, NC and they have a couple of wholefood type grocery stores there, or I could get one in Nashville which is my arrival airport at Wholefoods.
Or I guess I could get one online, eg from

Any suggestions? Thanks.

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  1. I honestly think you will get a more informed response if you post your query on the Southeast board which includes North Carolina...

    2 Replies
    1. re: Gio

      I would agree the local board would come up with better suggestions for a local source on what is available. Dartagnan Heritage Turkeys are sometimes available at the supermarkets, so if you inquire with them, they may be able to tell you if there are any stores in the Asheville, NC area that carries them. My local store had them last season at a discount prices between $70-80 USD. If my memory serves me correctly, ordering directly with shipping is closer to $100-120USD from Dartagnan.

      I would suggest you research here for a local source.....or Google for *Turkey Farms*. In my area, fresh kill turkeys go for $2.19/.lb and you can reserve a bird.

      1. re: fourunder

        I completely agree that a local source for a fresh bird is the best way to go. It will likely have been fed a better diet and not suffer any deterioration from freezing. I would be shocked to find out that there are no turkey farms in the greater-Ashville area.

    2. I'm going to be a bit of a contrarian and say that any frozen "All Natural" bird (i.e. not Basted or Injected) will be fine as long as you buy it far enough in advance to thaw and brine. Or you could buy a Kosher bird and then brining will be unnecessary, as it will already have been salted.

      Heritage birds are ungodly expensive and many are dry, chewy and short on meat.

      A properly frozen and thawed bird will not have any "deterioration."

      4 Replies
      1. re: acgold7

        We've been buying fresh turkeys from Whole Foods in Chapel Hill for many years. For Thanksgiving, you place your order weeks ahead of time, then pick it up on the Tuesday or Wednesday. They have a very good organic etc. producer in Pennsylvania and get the truck delivery in late Monday. Since Asheville is now a real foodie town, I'd be shocked if this was not the practice there too.

        1. re: walras

          I once worked at a kosher poultry plant. The owner always said a "frozen turkey is always fresher than a fresh turkey." For shelf life, a "fresh turkey" is generally kept at close to at freezing temp anyway until it hits the store, and then who knows who long it sits. In which case "fresh" means "not frozen" -- but fresh SOUNDS better ....

          1. re: birgator

            Your anecdote highlights how important it is to know the practices of your purveyors as well as possible. It also reinforces the suggestions regarding looking for local farmers and avoiding food that is plant processed.

        2. re: acgold7

          Although it is true that heritage turkeys typically have smaller breasts and less fat, the meat is not inherently "dry" or "chewy." Those qualities are the result of mistakes in the cooking process. The preparation of those birds is less forgiving than the standard, modern breeds. Personally, I have enjoyed the gamier flavor of the meat, and tolerated the extra attention required by them.

          The texture of any animal protein is adversely affected by freezing. In simplest terms, there is a loss of some of the water within the cell walls.

        3. Earth Fare is a "whole foods" sort of grocery in Asheville. Each year they take orders for at least a dozen different categories of turkey - fresh, free range, organic, different sizes,etc.

          He should check there!

          Be aware that Thanksgiving is the most insane holiday for grocers. You really want to order ahead if you don't want a frozen Butterball! Any shopping ahead of time you can do would be great, lines can be crazy in the few days before.

          Ah, Greenlife has been purchased by Wholefoods. Not sure if the name has changed, but it is now Wholefoods.


          6 Replies
          1. re: meatn3

            I think you are worring way too much!

            For a number of years I did multiple turkeys at TG.I did brined,smoked and cajun.They were all finished in hot peanut oil! I recoiled at the idea until I tried it!

            I love wild game and free range poultry,but I have great success with frozen grocery store birds,and they just about give them awat at TG.

            1. re: mollybelle

              Not sure what you mean by worrying too much...

              I handled the "turkey truck" for a natural foods store in WNC for several years. It was insane! People ordered and drove 100 miles to pick up a specific variety of bird. There is a finite number of the non-Butterball turkeys, so if a specific variety and/or size is needed it is best to order ahead. Many of these choices are fresh, which further limits the numbers available.

              Asheville is still a regional draw for specialty products so people will drive in from 2 hours away, making a food related holiday an even busier time for grocers.

              You are correct about the availability of conventional frozen birds, but I interpret his post as a quest for a bird of a different feather.

            2. re: meatn3

              Earth Fare or Greenlife sounds a good idea. He's actually near Burnsville (north of Asheville) and is going to ask at the Farmers' Market Saturday. He's just moved from Indiana to a new hourse where we've been going on holiday since 1950 and has never spent Thanksgiving in the area. Thanks for all the helpful suggestions and thanks to the moderator who moved my thread here.

              Earth Fare
              12235 N Community House Rd, Charlotte, NC

              1. re: DougWeller

                I raise heritage breed turkeys although in NH, too far away for Doug. I ate Thanksgiving at my sister's house last year and she didn't want one of my turkeys. I found the frozen butterball she served inedible, tasting mushy and like combined salt and chemicals. I prepared one of my own turkeys, out of my freezer, for Christmas. It was moist and tender. I didn't brine. I did lift the skin and rub a mixture of olive oil and some herbs under the skin. I prepare stuffing separately but put some cut oranges and apple halves in the cavity for roasting. I roasted as usual and what a difference from that commercial bird. It was yummy -- tender too but not melt in your mouth like the commercial turkey. Less water in the meat also meant that my turkey went further per pound than the Butterball. All my guests raved about the turkey and decided they wanted to order heritage birds forever more. You certainly will have a better and special Thanksgiving dinner with a heritage bird. They also are great for helping the Earth by keeping genetic diversity alive. I was stunned to learn that every one of those inexpensive supermarket birds all come from a single genetic strain. There used to be two but now it is only one. Scary.

                1. re: susanl143

                  I agree. There's a big difference between an organic turkey and a Butterball. I'm not saying you can't make a decent turkey with Butterball, my Mom's turkey is plenty edible (but she's a very good cook...worse technique can result in the dry and mushy at the same time phenomenon). But the turkeys I buy from Whole Foods are in another class. They don't need to be brined, IMO.

                  I don't think they are officially "heritage" , though. Perhaps one of these days I'll upgrade again!

                2. re: DougWeller

                  I reread your post and picked up on the Nashville aspect. Nashville to Burnsville will be a good 6 hour drive. The Airport is to the east of town, so you would most likely need to add an additional hour or so to drive west and get to the grocery.

                  An alternative to Asheville could be Knoxville, Tn. The Earth Fare in the western part of town is pretty convenient to I-40. Knoxville will be about 3 hours to Burnsville.

                  That time of year can still get warm weather and a turkey would need a pretty big cooler!

              2. LOCAL OPTIONS:

                Earth Fare in Asheville -- order fresh organic turkey in advance. Have been doing for for last two years, and have not been disappointed. EF places orders with a turkey farm in PA. I think.

                Otherwise, Greenlife -- it was bought by Whole Foods but maintains original name.

                Earth Fare
                12235 N Community House Rd, Charlotte, NC