We’re quickly approaching every eater’s favorite holiday—Thanksgiving. And while we’re sure you’ve got that sumptuous stuffing or classic cranberry dish down, we wanted to wax poetic regarding the esteemed main entrée: The Bird.
Americans serve-up some 45 million turkeys every Thanksgiving. Perhaps even more shocking: the Broad-Breasted White Turkey makes up 99 percent of birds offered at grocery stores. This mainstream breed was developed via massive turkey farms, mid-20th century, with the purpose of maximizing profit (least amount of inputs, quickest time to grow, maximum amount of meat).
These conventional birds are fast-tracked through development, susceptible to disease, and unable to fly, walk, or procreate via anything but artificial insemination. (As you might expect, flavor, taste, meat moisture etc. is lower quality compared to other breeds).
According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC), there are several, strict requirements for a breed to be officially deemed “heritage.” Heritage birds must be able to reproduce naturally, and feed on their own, outdoors (currently, the ALBC has designated 13 heritage turkey breeds).
If you have the opportunity to buy, taste and cook a different breed - we highly recommend it. Whether your Bird is pastured or officially 'heritage' - take the time to ask your farmer(s) about the quality and traits of their birds. There are countless turkey breeds - and we want you to have access to them. Organic quality, pastured birds are more expensive than their factory-raised counterparts, but the quality of their life directly mirrors the quality of their flavor. (Not to mention, you and your guests can proudly pass the gravy over shopping local - and specifically supporting farmers whose practices prioritize the land and quality of your Bird's life).
While you likely have this year covered - consider heritage for next!