Remember last November, when you thought it would be cool to buy a pasture-raised turkey for Thanksgiving, but all the farmers you called laughed at you because they had sold out months before? So humiliating.
Believe it or not, it’s time—right now—to reserve your locally grown, pasture-raised turkey for Thanksgiving 2013. Trust me, the folks who do this every year have already ordered theirs, so if you want one on your table, you’d better get moving.
Unlike commercially produced birds—even those labeled “free-range” or “organic”—pastured turkeys are raised primarily outdoors, where they eat a diet of grass and bugs supplemented with feed. Traditional (“heritage”) breeds like Narragansett, Bourbon Red, Standard Bronze and Royal Palm grow more slowly than commercial turkeys, can survive outdoors, and yes, can reproduce all by themselves. The fast-growing Broad Breasted Whites raised by commercial producers are so out of kilter, they cannot mate.
Fans say pastured turkeys have a fuller flavor than the commercial birds. (Experts say they should be cooked at a relatively low temperature to preserve moisture.) In a 2011 Bon Appetit blind taste test, three out of four panel tasters preferred the heritage breed. But you will pay more for the privilege of eating one, about $7.50 to $8 per pound for a whole bird. Expect to plunk down a deposit for your turkey, but don’t expect to be able to request a specific weight. They weigh what they weigh, usually somewhere between 10 and 18 pounds.
Here are a few nearby farms accepting orders now for Thanksgiving turkeys:
• 180 Degree Farm: Bourbon Red, Sweetgrass, Royal Palm breeds. Birds weigh 9 to 16 pounds each and cost $7.50 per pound. Pickup will be at the farm in Sharpsburg. E-mail email@example.com to start the reservation process; a $29 deposit is required.
• Darby Farms: Narragansett and Bourbon Red breeds. Birds weigh an average of 15 pounds and cost $7.50 per pound. Pickup will be at the farm in Good Hope or at the Decatur Farmers Market. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact information to start the reservation process; a $28 deposit is required.
• Heritage Farm: Bourbon Red and Standard Bronze breeds. $7.90 per pound, $50 deposit required. Pickup at Cumming Harvest Locally Grown, Douglasville Farmers Market, Dunwoody Green Market, Peachtree Road Farmers Market, or on farm in Bowdon by appointment. E-mail email@example.com to start the reservation process.
And OK, if you miss out on placing an order now, you may still be able to get a pastured bird in November. White Oak Pastures in Bluffton sells its heritage American Standard Bronze turkeys online and through several outlets, including area farmers markets and stores. As the holidays approach, they usually post Thanksgiving turkey ordering and purchase information for all you slackers.
Do you know of another farm accepting pastured turkey orders now for Thanksgiving? Add it as a comment below.