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For many families, the turkey is the centerpiece at the Thanksgiving table. To me, separate plates of two different shades of meat, and cold turkey sandwiches the days after, are a bit nostalgic. We try to make good choices when it comes to our food, choosing foods that are real, whole, and grown the way nature intended them to grow. There is an ever-increasing number of people who feel similarly, which has been reflected in the amount of heritage and pastured poultry farms that are cropping up, even in Utah.

So what does "heritage pastured turkey" mean?

According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy a heritage turkey has to meet the following criteria to be considered a heritage breed. They must be reproduced and genetically maintained through natural mating, live a long productive lifespan (3 - 7 years) outdoors, and have a slow to moderate growth rate (about 28 weeks) which allows the turkeys to grow strong skeletal structures and healthy organs before they begin to build muscle mass, which I have read happens by flying, running and turkey-ing around. 

Commercial turkeys, on the other hand, don't meet those requirements. I could go into detail but I will just say "Today’s commercial turkey is selected to efficiently produce meat at the lowest possible cost. It is an excellent converter of feed to breast meat, but the result of this improvement is a loss of the bird’s ability to successfully mate and produce fertile eggs without intervention." {source}

The most interesting thing about the definition for heritage turkeys is that the required growth rate "is identical to that of the commercial varieties of the first half of the 20th century". Our grands and great grands knew something about real food, and we are quick to forget. Or maybe we just never bothered to ask.

Pastured turkeys live their lives in green pastures, the "old-fashioned way". They are able to live up to their turkey potential and are raised on grass, bugs, and wholesome grain. learn more here.

Although the meat is a bit pricier at $2 - 4 a pound, it may be worth the price, knowing where and who your birds are coming from. Not to mention the palatable quality of taste and texture you are sure to notice.

Where to get heritage turkeys:

For the locals, Heritage Valley Poultry is a newer farm offering heritage chickens and turkeys. They are located in BoxElder and raise heritage, but not pastured turkeys. "Besides whole chickens, Anderson sells packages of breasts, thighs, legs, wings and even liver for pate. Eventually, he hopes to offer ground turkey." {source and contact info}

The Christiansen Family Farm located in Vernon, Utah, is sold out of their heritage and pastured turkeys, but maybe if you mark it now you will remember in time for next year.

In Utah, you can even hunt your own wild turkey. How's that for "heritage"?

If you don't really mind having the bird travel a distance after slaughter, you can also order from varied farmers online like this one, or check out your local whole foods, or natural foods market.

A few more local meat ranches and farms in utah, in case you're thinking of the non-turkey route.

And if you're going the meat free route, there are an enormous amount of stunning main course options online, here are some from gourmet and martha.

In no way do I want you to feel guilty for squee-ing over your rock bottom dollar warehouse turkey, it's just good to know what other options you have.

One Comment

  1. Oh thank you so much for this post! I appreciate it so much! I can't wait to get one of those Heritage Breeds next year. I'm going away this year and there won't be any heritage turkey, but just having the info for next year is a big plus!