heritage turkey

Talking Turkey

As I mentioned last week, before you reach for that Butterball in your grocery store freezer section, you might want to consider a "heritage" turkey from Windy N Ranch. Here are ten reasons why:

Looks, for starters

  1. Flavor. As with chicken, when you breed the speed into their weight-gain, you breed out the flavor. Ever wonder what turkey tasted like to your great-grandparents? Wonder no more.
  2. Cool names. Let "Bourbon Red, Narragansett, Standard Bronze, and White Holland" roll around your mouth and off your tongue.
  3. Antibiotic-free. Though, if they ever figure out a way to give turkeys flu shots that then grant us flu-shot protection, I might be willing to give ground here.
  4. Growth-hormone-free. These heritage turkeys put on weight in the good old-fashioned manner--over time. As in, 50% longer from here to maturity than industrial turkeys.
  5. Steroid-free. Because we like our baseball-players PED-free, why not our turkeys? A-Rod may be allowed to return to baseball next year, but we all know we won't hold him in the same esteem as players with no hint of fakery. Same goes for the crowning glory of the Thanksgiving table. Baseball, apple pie, Chevrolet, and heritage turkeys is all I'm saying.
  6. Stimulant-free. Meaning, I think, the turkeys were allowed no access to alcoholic ragers and video game marathons. Oh--hang on--word just in--"stimulants" refers to growth stimulants fed to industrial poultry. My bad.
  7. Ionophore-free. I'm pretty sure this means the turkeys were raised entirely in the troposphere, and not outer space, where turkeys have no business being. Wait--what? A quick search reveals that "ionophore" "ionosphere." "Ionophores" are "anticoccidials" added to poultry feed. Using my rusty root-word SAT skills, my best guess is that ionophores fight/prevent tailbones...Onward...
  8. Pastured. Whew. A term I do know. These turkeys got to roam about on grass. Grass with no herbicides or pesticides. Some of you may be claustrophilic indoors-y types, but you wouldn't have made good turkeys.

  9. Available at the Bellevue Farmers Market. How easy is that? Place your order this Saturday and pick up later in the month, while you're grabbing your potatoes and bread and soup and fresh cranberries and green beans and apples for pie and pumpkin for pie. One-stop shopping!
  10. And lastly, Acquainted with the delights of turkey sex. It wouldn't surprise you to hear that the Broad-Breasted Whites which make up most of the turkeys in America rarely feel "in the mood" for turkey whoopee. Not only are they confined and pumped full of nastiness and swollen like surgically-enhanced pageant contestants, but they actually are physically unable to enjoy turkey intimacy. As if we needed one more reason to feel Thanksgiving guilt! As turkey lives go, heritage turkeys have it pretty sweet.

The classic Narragansett
Don't know if you're allowed to order by particular breed, but with these beauties it's hard to go wrong!

Bourbon Red [pic courtesy Livestockconservancy.org]
Who am I kidding? These really have got to be the most ridiculous-looking birds that walk the planet. But so tasty.

On a final note, I leave you with this quote from the lesser-known-but-also-awesome girl pioneer book Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink. Caddie's mom was unable to sell her turkeys at market, and therefore the Woodlawns are forced to eat turkey day in and day out. Plenty of us do this by choice nowadays, but I guess back when turkey had distinctive flavor this could have become a hardship:

"There's nothing nicer than turkey on bread, my child. Think of all the poor children who would be glad of a nice turkey sandwich!"

Tom and Caddie and Warren had often thought of these poor children who had no turkey. Secretly they envied them. One can endure beef every day or even salt pork. One eats it mechanically, without thinking, but not turkey. No matter how disguised with onions or cabbage, or sage dressing, turkey is always turkey.