November 19, 2008

heritage turkeys

With Thanksgiving around the corner I've been giving lots of thought to our holiday meal. A few weeks ago while I was at the farmer's market I saw a sign for "Heritage Turkeys." I wasn't sure what that was exactly, or how it might compare to all the other meat adjectives like, free range, organic, pastured, etc.

In a brilliant coincidence, a few days ago as I was reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, I came to a section about—you guessed it—heritage turkeys! I think it is destiny that I should try one this year.

I learned on Local Harvest that a heritage turkey is "prized for their rich flavor and beautiful plumage, heritage turkeys are the ancestors of the common Broad-breasted White industrial breed of turkey that comprises 99.99% of the supermarket turkeys sold today. But the Heritage Breeds still exist and are making a comeback."

Kingsolver writes about these special turkeys because she chose to raise some on her family's small farm. She mentions that the Slow Food movement encouraged people to seek out heritage breeds in its 2003 Ark of Taste turkey project. Kingslover credits that campaign with initiating a new demand for these heirloom breeds. Hence, more farmers have begun to raise them.

Many of these breeds were familiar to farmers a century ago, before the industrialized food system took over. My sources say heritage turkeys are more moist and flavorful. I plan to give it a try if it isn't too late to order one.

Local Harvest has a link where you can find a heritage turkey source near you, or you can order one from them online.

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