We offer fresh or frozen (great for Christmas) birds in standard White or Heritage breeds. They are packed in a plastic bag and are available on the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The liver, heart, and neck are included with your bird. We will notify you promptly and return your deposit if we cannot fill your turkey order.
Heritage turkeys contain a higher percentage of dark meat—about half of the edible weight. In addition, the meat tends to be firmer and have slightly more flavor. These traits are due to several factors. The birds have lived longer and had more time to exercise and develop their muscles, producing a well-defined firm meat. Their increased lifespan has allowed more time to eat a varied diet that includes grass and insects and to create some stores of fat, resulting in a rich, complex flavor. The skin is a little thicker and can be cooked to a crispy brown.
History and Growth Characteristics
At the turn of the 21st century all heritage turkey breeds were endangered, and it is only recently that consumer demand has stimulated increased production to preserve these breeds. Heritage turkeys are domesticated breeds closer to the original lineage of the wild turkeys known to the Pilgrims and Indians. They retain biological characteristics enabling them to be raised more closely to the natural behavior and life cycle of their wild ancestors. Heritage turkeys have a relatively long lifespan, a much slower growth rate, and can breed and hatch naturally without human intervention. In addition, heritage breeds tend to be naturally sturdy and healthy when raised outside on pasture.
Because the leg and the breast meat are similarly sized in our heritage breeds, it is easier to cook the bird without drying out the legs or undercooking the breast. Pre-heat oven to 400 and roast at 325-350 degrees. Take the giblets out of the bird before putting in the oven. To prevent drying out, it is recommended that you roast 10-12 minutes for each pound rather than 15 minutes. Larger birds, over 18 pounds, normally require less cooking time—10 minutes per pound. Check temperature deep in the center of the breast half an hour before you think the turkey might be done. To ensure food safety, the breast should be cooked to a minimum 160 degrees. After cooking let the turkey “rest” at room temperature for 15-30 minutes. If you cook the breast to 170 degrees you will have to be careful to remove it promptly from the oven so as not to dry it out.
Cost, Size and Breed
Our expenses to raise the heritage birds are higher. These slightly smaller and beautifully plumed birds take over twice as long to grow to market weight, and the one-day-old baby poults cost considerably more. Most of our heritage birds will be between 10-17 pounds, while there will be a few smaller hens and some heavier, larger toms.
We will identify the breed you receive, but we cannot guarantee which breed you will receive. We feel the eating quality is fairly similar. On average, the Narragansetts may weigh a pound or two less and have a generally hardier constitution making them easier to raise.
Heritage Bourbon Reds: This heritage breed is named for its beautiful colorful plumage and for Bourbon County KY. Developed out of earlier breeds from PA and surrounding states in the early 1900’s the Reds were popular on Thanksgiving tables up to the 1930’s and 40’s.
Heritage Narragansett: The Narragansett, named for their New England origin, has black, gray, tan, and white feathers associated with pictures of the Pilgrim’s birds. This very old breed, going back to early colonial times, is prized for its excellent temperament and good maternal abilities.
Standard Commercial Breed (approx. 12-22 pounds) $4.99/lb., $25 deposit/bird:
Broad Breasted Whites: The Whites, developed in the 1950’s by USDA, are the standard commercial breed, noted for rapid growth and a large amount of white breast meat. The white color was meant to decrease the visibility of any “pin” feathers that escaped the plucking process.
Because the breast is oversized in proportion to the legs, cooking the birds evenly presents a challenge lest the legs dry out before the breast is fully cooked. Cook as outlined above, but check with a meat thermometer so as to remove the turkey promptly from the oven when the breast reaches 160 degrees. Stuffing the turkey cavity can add to the necessary cooking time and increase the risk of drying of the legs. Note: Center of stuffing should be 165 degrees according to USDA food safety guidelines.
Our birds average 12-22 pounds, but we do have a few smaller and larger birds as well. When fed our organic grain and allowed to exercise and forage insects and grass on our organic pastures, these birds develop fine textured and flavorful predominantly white meat that is tender and juicy. Because of their exercise and pasture based diet, these birds develop more favor than birds raised in large confined poultry houses.
In the past we sold only the Whites, and our customer demand for these pastured birds has steadily grown due to their excellent flavor compared to standard grocery store birds. Therefore, we grow more of these Whites than the heritage breeds.
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