The turkey, the mashed potatoes, the sweet potatoes, the stuffing, the squash, the green bean casserole, the pies, the gravy, the guests, the grace … Thanksgiving is one of the most well thought out and lovingly prepared meals for family and friends you’ll ever make.
This year, why not treat yourself and your family to a locally raised turkey instead of a commercial turkey? These are turkeys that are raised on pastures, graze on grass, eat bugs and worms, move around a lot and get plenty of exercise. They contain no hormones and antibiotics and are said to be more lean, juicy, firm yet tender, flavorful and nutritious than grocery store turkeys.
Tricia Park, of Creekside Meadows Farm, New Woodstock, had a customer who liked her family’s pasture-raised chicken so much he decided to order a pastured turkey for Thanksgiving.
“He told me, ‘That’s the best turkey I’ve had in my 57 years,’ ” Park recalls with a grin.
If you opt for a locally raised bird rather than a commercial turkey, here are a few things you should know:
Order now, or very soon. Producers raise a limited number of turkeys and require advance orders. Deposits are usually required, with orders picked up the week of Thanksgiving.
Expect to pay more. About $4 to $5 or more per pound.
Be flexible on size, please. Farmers can’t predict what size birds they will have. The order form for Creekside Meadows asks customers to specify choice of small (12 to 14 pounds), medium (14 to 20 pounds) and large (20 or more pounds). Park says they can’t promise exact size, but notes that turkeys can be cut in half, if needed. Greg Rhoad, managing chef at Side Hill Farmers Meats and Market, in Manlius, says if last year is any indication, turkeys will be 18 to 24 pounds, on average, with a few larger and a few smaller. For those who don’t want to cook a whole turkey, boneless breasts and leg/thigh quarters are available.
Because they are leaner, pastured turkeys tend to cook more quickly than commercial turkeys. “Where a 20- to 24-pound conventional bird may take six-plus hours, the same size fresh birds seem to come to temperature in about four and a half hours,” Rhoad says. No matter the size and cooking method you use, turkey needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Park recommends filling the turkey cavity with onions and herbs and skipping brines and dry rubs in favor of a mixture of butter and herbs applied liberally under the skin of the turkey to make it self-basting. “Enjoy the natural flavor of the turkey,” she says.
You’re paying a lot for this turkey, so make the most of it. Remove leftover meat from the turkey and refrigerate as soon as possible. Save or boil the turkey carcass for stock. Nothing is better than post-Thanksgiving turkey soup.
Where to Get It
Here is a short list of local producers offering pastured turkeys for Thanksgiving. It is not intended to be comprehensive. If you know of other local producers offering pastured turkeys, let us know.
Creekside Meadows Farm, New Woodstock. The Park offers turkeys for $5.25 a pound. Turkeys will range from about 12 to 20 pounds. A $30 deposit is required. Be sure to make room in your freezer: This year, for the first time, turkeys will be butchered and frozen at the farm, and available for pick-up the first two weeks of November. Information: 662-7988, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, stop and see Tricia at the Cazenovia Farmers Market (Saturdays).
Side Hill Farmers Meats and Market, Manlius. Side Hill is taking orders for 100 turkeys raised by Ingallside Meadows Farm and Goose Green Farm, both in Madison County. The price is $4.50 per pound. Stop in the store to place your order for Thanksgiving-week pick-up (fresh, not frozen; about 18 to 22 pounds). The store is at 315 Fayette St., Manlius, behind Sno-Top. Information: 682-6328.
W.W. Longhorn Ranch, Bernhards Bay: The Wood family offers pastured turkeys. To order, call 447-5319 or inquire at the W.W. Longhorn Ranch stand at the Central New York Regional Market (Saturdays, Shed C) or Fayetteville Farmers Market (Thursdays, through Oct. 30).
Meadow Raised Meats from Sweet Grass Farm, Vernon. Pastured turkey is available through January, according to the website. Turkey parts (thighs, drumsticks, wings, necks) are also available. Information: 829-5437 (Wendy).
Why pastured? Studies of the diets of fowl who regularly spent time in pastures with leguminous plants like clovers and vetch found an increase the level of omega-3s in turkey meat and lower ratios of omega-6s to omega-3s.