Food and Cuisine

Published on November 2nd, 2011 | by Lynn Fang


Heritage Turkeys for a More Sustainable Thanksgiving

Narragansett Turkey

These days, the typical Thanksgiving turkey is a mass-produced Broad Breasted White Turkey, factory-farmed and injected with a slew of chemical antibiotics and hormones.

You may have heard about the rise in grass-fed, pastured meats. So what about turkeys? Can you get a humanely and sustainably raised turkey too?

Before the Broad Breasted White Turkey, American families enjoyed a more diverse variety of turkeys to choose from. Nowadays, these diverse breeds are known as Heritage Breeds. They are making a comeback in the era of factory farm protest.

Heritage Breeds include the Standard Bronze, Bourbon Red, Jersey Buff, Slate, Black Spanish, Narragansett, and White Holland.

The average supermarket turkey takes 18 weeks to grow to an average of 32 pounds. They are not yet fully mature, but were selected for their large breast growth in a short timespan (note that flavor is not a component of this breed). On the other hand, heritage birds take 24-30 weeks to reach market weight, meaning they are more fully matured. Most say that heritage birds are more flavorful and the cost and time are well worth it. The delicious taste is attributed to their diverse diets and longer lifespans.

Most Heritage birds are grown on small family farms, where they help out with pest control by eating weeds and insects.

Help support the quiet revival of the Heritage Turkey by eating one this Thanksgiving. While they are definitely more expensive, you’ll be supporting small farming homesteads, the pastured meat movement, as well as biological diversity and conservation.

Local Harvest is by far the most extensive and comprehensive resource for information, recipes, and sources of Heritage Turkeys.

Sources for Heritage Turkeys:

[CC Image by dapawprint via Flickr]

Will you support Heritage Turkeys this Thanksgiving?


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About the Author

is a compost consultant and educator, eco-conscious writer, and intuitive artist. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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