The Backyard

The Backyard

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Talking Turkey

This is a meat story written by part-time vegetarian. I have the good fortune of being surrounded by meat lovers and can't deny my loved ones their food preference. While I annoy them to death with my opinions on this food thing and the environment, they certainly aren't going to stop eating meat for me (I must add they eat mostly local so they do NOT support industrial farming of meat). So I have to accommodate them at Christmas. Yes, I stuff my hand up a dead bird's cold ass and think to myself how much I love my family while I do it. I don't eat the turkey. Last year I did, but this year I'm not. Why? Because last year we had a free range organic bird that cost me $54.00, but that won't be the case this year. Has anyone priced an organic free-range turkey lately? At Natural Acres in Millersburg, $5.69 a pound is the going rate. My dad said, "Did you tell them to "stuff it?" After a little more research on prices of organic birds, I discovered Natural Acres may be ripping people off, although the prices aren't a whole lot lower -- $3.99 is what I'd pay if I would drive about a 100 mile round trip to Eberly poultry to pick it up (same supplier to Natural Acres). Why so much? Why organic or another route folks are going "Heritage?" Read on. Here's a short lesson on turkeys:
  • Free-Range Organic - the birds run free in a field and eat organic feed. No antibiotics or other chemicals injected or pumped in their food. Totally natural and humane.

  • Free-range natural - the birds run free and eat "natural" feed (grains). No antibiotics or injections -- its not certified organic, thus they can't label them "organic." 2nd best choice.

  • "Natural" turkey - you'll see this on the package in the big chain stores on the cheap turkeys. Don't believe them unless they specifically say they use no antiobiotics or injections. The birds were likely factory farmed, raised in a crowded cage and not permitted to move much their entire lives.

  • The .89 lb turkeys - Butterball and all others. Factory farmed birds likely raised in a crowded cage and injected with antiobiotics to prevent illnesses from crammed quarters. They are fed a chemically-laced commercial feed grown on industrial farms. Butterball even takes it a step further and injects their birds with extra Butter and "flavorings", thus, Butterball. Avoid these birds at all costs - there's a reason they are cheap that could cost us the environment some day. Is that a price to pay?
  • Heritage Turkeys - just like heirloom fruits and vegetables, heritage turkeys are original breeds of turkeys not commonly raised. Thus, they are expensive and usually have to be ordered in the summer - BUT apparently they are very tasty, much more than the normal turkey. Many of the heritage breeds are rare and hard to find.

New York Magazine has a much more in-depth description of the turkey market. Its a good education. Some folks opt to raise their own turkeys which I couldn't do because I couldn't kill it. Its actually the cheapest way to go at a cost of $2.00 a chick, but you have to factor in feed costs and if you need to build a pen for it, etc. Crunchy Chicken has an interesting story on her bird this year -- she opted for a Heritage Turkey ordered in July that set her back $95.00. My dear hubby loves his Butterball, but I believe I can talk him into a Free-range natural bird for $1.89 lb from Koch's Turkey Farm. They are about 30 miles from here (local!) in Tamaqua Pennsylvania, and I while not certified organic or heritage, they are the next best thing - locally raised and they use local feed and grain. And what are YOU having for Thanksgiving and/or Christmas this year?

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