Food is not always something that you put in your mouth and eat!

As some of you know we raised a few Heritage Bronze Turkeys this year mostly to see how they would make out on pasture rather than in confined controlled housing and feeding.

The vast majority of store bought turkey’s come from industrial mega farms which confine and control the living environment and implement a continuous feeding program. The genetically mixed breed of turkey is meant to have a broad breast and to grow rapidly. These turkeys become so large that it’s impossible for them to mate naturally and artificial insemination is the only way that fertile eggs are produced for hatching.

Our newly hatched turkey babies (poults) arrived last June and were about the same size as a baby chick. I knew absolutely nothing about raising turkeys and it was an exciting, but scary, moment when I realized that okay, they are here, now what do I do with them?

If anything the turkeys became an exercise in building family as all of the grandkids had to come and see the new babies. As a matter of fact, our oldest grandson, Noah, was with us on one of his weekly summer visits and the turkeys’ arriving was a big surprise for him. Needless to say, he fell in love with them and most days we had to drag him out of the turkey pen.VOM Turkeys 6192014 008

There is no question that baby animals are cute and cuddly and explaining to the kids that we were raising them for Thanksgiving dinner was hard. Much to my surprise they looked at me and said “I know”. So much for thinking that it was going to be tears and screaming over the turkeys!

At four weeks of age we moved the turkeys into what I called, “the turkey condo”. My husband and son had converted an unused horse stall into a home for the turkeys and they had our horses for company. We installed electric fencing to surround their pasture, not to keep them in, rather to keep foxes out.Turkeys 7182014 008

I found that turkeys are much friendlier than chickens. They love having visitors and will follow wherever anyone would like to take them for a walk. On the other hand they are kind of strange creatures slanting their heads sideways to look at you took some getting used to.

As thanksgiving has drawn nearer and people have found out that we have turkeys, I’ve had numerous requests to buy a fresh turkey for Thanksgiving. I’ve gently turned folks away and hopefully pointed them in directions of where they could buy the same type of turkey as what we have. Selling on farm is not an option for us as State regulations would require us to build something akin to a processing plant.

Slaughter time has come and it’s not something I’ve not looked forward to. And here I thought it would be hard for the kid’s! This brings me to a point of the understanding of where food comes from. 10698459_953630784665250_3111914355740412800_n

Animals raised for food don’t just magically appear at the grocery store although if you ask most school aged children they will tell you that their food comes from the store. I can say that the grandchildren understand that the animals are raised on the farm and they are what people eat.

It comes down to the turkeys are for Thanksgiving dinner. How they were raised and the life that they had is what makes the difference. Having raised industrial chickens for twenty three years it never crossed my mind when the company removed them for slaughter.

When I think about it now relating to the turkeys I think that Thanksgiving dinner is appropriate to say that I will give thanks to the turkeys, among other things, for providing a holiday meal for family to share and for sustaining human life. I know that our turkeys were raised and cared for in the best way possible, and for a time they were part of family life. They were raised for a purpose, not just as a thing, and raised in the best animal welfare standards that any turkey can have. They were stunned before slaughter which is the most humane method possible.

Our turkeys will be the centerpiece, not just on the dinner table, but also something that family comes together over and memories are made. No matter where your Thanksgiving turkey comes from this year, take a moment to thank the turkey along with all of your other thanks. Happy Thanksgiving!
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P.S. I’ve had many requests about how to cook a heritage pasture raised turkey. I’m in no way an expert on this subject as this will be another first for me. I’ve done some reading on the subject and I got some advice from my youngest daughter, Natalie, who cooks one every year. She soaks her turkey in a brine for 24 hours before cooking.

What I can tell you is that heritage pasture raised turkeys are not self-basting so make sure you use oil or butter along with your chosen spices and herbs and generously rub onto the breast between the meat and skin before cooking.

Here are a few ideas:
Local Harvest – http://www.localharvest.org/features/cooking-turkeys.jsp

Pintrest has several recipes – http://www.pinterest.com/bighornranc1222/pastured-chicken-recipes/

Martha Stewart – http://www.marthastewart.com/347005/roasted-heritage-turkey

Comments on: "It’s Turkey Time" (5)

  1. sageywoman said:

    I wondered what the brand name is on your turkeys if someone wanted to but one . How many do you raise? Do you feed them organic feed or commercial feed? We raised a few heritage birds a few years back …even had them hatch thir own chicks so It brings back memories when you describe them :)Sharon

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  2. This will be our seventh Thanksgiving with a pastured turkey as the centerpiece of our meal. Twice they came from a farm near my mom in rural SW Wisconsin, and five years ago we found a local farmer raising turkeys on pasture. I could never get a grocery store turkey again – frozen or fresh. We’ve tried the premium fresh brands too and they just do not compare to the ones we get from our farmer. They are worth driving to the drop-off point and waiting in line in the cold, and they are worth the extra cost. We’re brining ours for the second time and they turn out great that way – very moist, just delicious. We haven’t needed butter for basting at all. We have never had a dry pastured turkey, and they are nothing like the mealy store turkeys I now consider inedible. They turkeys we get now are just like the ones I remember from childhood. Somewhere along the line store turkeys got mushy and mealy and lost that wonderful flavor. We can even tell the difference in the fragrance in our house while our turkey is roasting. We’ve smoked them a couple times – wonderful that way too. Congratulations on your first turkey-raising experience. Your customers are very lucky indeed. We are so thankful for our local farmers.

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  3. Josie Peper said:

    So where DO I get a turkey like these?

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    • Depending on where you live Josie, you need to find a local farmer who is raising turkeys. Also, there are several websites for farms selling these type of turkeys.

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    • You could try eatwild.com , or localharvest.org . Often with small local farmers, supply is limited and they will take pre-orders and deposits. I hope you can find one for this year, but if not it’s still definitely worthwhile to hook up with local farmers for other products, and you could line up a farmer in plenty of time for next Thanksgiving. Our Thanksgiving turkeys are always great, but so are the eggs, chicken, beef, pork, lamb, and dairy we get from local farmers. Not only does everything taste so much better than the store stuff, we are healthier too.

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