We can hardly believe the year’s most celebratory season is already here, and with that comes the first of many winter holidays: Thanksgiving. Naturally, as we are lovers of food, this is not just a holiday, it’s THE holiday. Visions of glazed sweet potatoes, buttery rolls, and plates piled high with cornbread stuffing dance in our heads as we plan the ultimate feast for our families. But, when it comes down to it, we know it’s the turkey that’s the true star of the show. So how do you choose the right thanksgiving bird for you and your family? Knowing the difference between conventional and pastured is a great place to start.
Conventional: Most grocery store birds fall under the category we’ve come to know as conventional or “factory-farmed” animals. Crammed into excruciatingly confined spaces, the standard grocery store turkey lives without their most natural needs, like an omnivorous diet, ground to roost on while sleeping, access to water when needed, and literally any space to move within. These conditions start from the very beginning and persist 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until the bird is ready to process. A lot of these birds tend to be treated with antibiotics and chemical preservatives and pesticides as well and, as the saying goes, you are what you eat (yep, your body will absorb what their bodies absorbed). If you’re interested in learning more about the lifestyle conditions of a conventionally raised turkey, Kristin Wartman wrote a great piece for Civil Eats about this very issue.
Pastured: This year Farmhouse is offering pasture-raised broad breasted birds from three Texas ranchers: Parker Creek Ranch (pictured above), Whitehurst Farms, and Natural Champion Farm. Ranchers like these are such striking reminders of why we want to support our local food industry. They are happy, passionate people whose love of raising food translates directly into the quality of life they provide their turkeys. Sprawling pastures provide the turkeys constant access to sunshine, green grass, clean water, and non-GMO and soy-free feed. What’s more, these birds are never given growth hormone or antibiotics, keeping you and your families safe from any unwanted and unhealthy additives.
Aside from just the health of it, pasture-raised turkey tastes better. With higher quality food, happy lives, and longer life spans, the turkeys are able to develop a rich, more robust flavor over time that the rapid-raised factory birds just don’t have.
In a season when giving thanks illuminates the backdrop of all of our gatherings, we feel it’s that much more important to offer our appreciation for our loved ones, our hard-working farmers and ranchers that make these meals so special, and people like you who value supporting and growing your local food system.