It's the time of year when many of us roast a turkey or two for holiday dinners. This year we did some research and became more informed consumers before purchasing.
Did you know that turkeys sold in common grocery stores are not able to breed normally? The Broad Breasted White turkey has been cross bred to such an extreme it can no longer copulate. This breed will grow breast meat so large and heavy that the bird can't breed and sometimes can't stand on its own legs. All the eggs are artificially inseminated, and all the turkeys are raised in large commercial factories in confinement production.
The good news is that there are options available if you're willing to look. Thanks to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, there are a few farmers willing to keep the endangered breeds alive. Interest from the Slow Foods USA movement is raising awareness among the public.
We ordered our Thanksgiving turkey (a Bourbon Red) from a local farmer who raises meat animals in open pasture. We'll admit it was pricey----at $6/pound, it makes even a small turkey a rather large investment. We roasted our nine pound turkey outside on the grill over smoking hickory chips and stuffed with apples and rosemary. The meat was moist and delicious, and there was far more dark meat than a commercial bird. We enjoyed every bite of it, and then boiled the carcass for soup broth.
We've considered raising our own turkeys, but it's not a good idea to raise chickens and turkeys on the same property because of disease control. Besides, it's not entirely legal in my municipality. So for now, we'll pay the extra money to support our local farmers who are working hard to preserve heritage breeds.