let’s talk turkey (part 1 of 2 or 3)

A pre-dawn inner monologue by Jeanne …

Thanksgiving is 10 days away.

What ? ! ? !

It is.

And Christmas is in six weeks.

I’m sorry … but …

no …

… that just can’t be.

It is.

What happened to the Fourth of July?!?

It was four and half months ago.

Did I miss Labor Day?!?

I don’t think so.

Oh.  Right.

Halloween was two weeks ago.

There has been a giant butterfly living in our house since then.

And so goes the conversation in my brain this morning just before my eyes popped open and even though Thanksgiving won’t be at the Cottage this year as my in-laws have a much bigger abode, we’re going to do a good bit of the cooking.  So I realized we better get started planning!

We need to confirm the guest list.

Test a few recipes.

Figure out the menu.

But before I get ahead of myself, we need to talk some turkey.

Because at the center of our dinner there’s sure to be a turkey.

You, too?

I thought so.

And I’m assuming that if you’re checking out O’Mamas, you might already have an idea of what the labels mean.  Or maybe you’re new to organic and whole food living.  Maybe you’re just beginning the journey or looking for reasons to start.

Maybe you don’t pay attention to the labels, but are wondering if you should.

Here’s the breakdown:

HERITAGE – “Heritage” refers to the breed of turkeys and is generally known as a “legacy” bird.  They are big on the artisanal food market.  Although only a fraction of the birds sold in the US are heritage birds.  According to Wikipedia, heritage turkeys “have a relatively long lifespan and a much slower growth rate than turkey bred for industrial agriculture, and unlike industrially-bred turkeys, can reproduce without artificial insemination.”  And they can either be “organic” or “free range” or “industrially-bred.”

INDUSTRIALLY-BRED (not usually marked … often marked “natural”) – AKA factory-farmed … infused with chemicals that have no place in our bodies … have been bred to the point of barely resembling the animals from which they are descendants.  They are fed antibiotics to combat the diseases that occur because of their unnatural diets (turkeys are vegetarian … most industrially-bred turkeys are fed meat bi-products), and are given growth hormones so they can be slaughtered before maturity.  They may have extra breast meat … and they may “cook easily” and evenly … they may even be “tasty.”  But I would encourage you to rethink industrially-bred birds.

NATURAL – “natural” means absolutely nothing in the food world.  “Natural flavorings” often include MSG … “natural” juices contain added ascorbic acid and things that have nothing to do with nature.  It’s just a marketing term that companies use to lure you into complacency.  Beware “Natural” anything!!

FREE RANGE – just because a bird is free range, doesn’t mean it has the free range to wander far from it’s pen.  It just means it has access to the outdoors.  If it’s “free range” and “pasture-fed,” it’ll likely taste pretty good.  But if you take issue with the way animals are treated in the farming industry … free range may be better than the alternative, but it’s not really so great.

ORGANIC – an organic turkey can be any breed of turkey, but they are certified by the USDA that they have been raised without use of hormones, pesticides and the like.  The bird will have been fed a vegetarian diet.  Generally speaking, farmers who raise organic food (meat, poultry, veggies, grains, etc.) do so in a way that doesn’t harm the environment.  They don’t add “stuff” to your bird (like water, salt, modified food starch, sodium phosphates or “natural flavorings”) as many industrial farms do.  So as far as making a healthy choice, this seems to be the way to go.  They also tend to be pretty tasty (which has something to do with being pasture-fed).

I know the organic, free-range, pasture-fed variety can be more expensive, but it’s once a year.  And here are a few places you might be able to find more reasonably priced versions of the bird (and there’s still time to order!):

Trader Joe’s – organic brined turkeys for $2.99/lb are available in store.

Von’s – has organic birds for $2.99/lb, also in stores now.

Whole Foods – $3.99/lb for an organic free range bird.  And you can order these online!

D’Artagnan – has organic free range birds that can be ordered online … a bit pricey at $7.50/lb, but a reputable source.

Organic Prairie – another reputable online source, has organic whole young turkeys for about $4.31/lb.

Williams-Sonoma – for about $7.50/lb, you can get an organic free-range turkey from the Willie Bird Farm … plus $15 shipping.

So there you have it … good luck finding the right bird for your family.  We’ll be writing again in the coming days about whether we should wet brine, dry brine, fast cook, slow-roast or fry the bird this year.

How are you cooking YOUR bird this year?

PS – Don’t forget to register for this week’s GIVEAWAY!

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