While Thanksgiving side dishes are getting more creative in our kitchens, the turkey still is – and always will be – the star of the show. Farmers are already taking orders, so the question of which turkey to buy is becoming every bit as important as how to cook it.
Not too long ago, our only option was likely the standard grocery store bird, but now we have choices! More and more, we’re opting to give thanks with fresh turkeys that were raised closeby – naturally and humanely. What could be a better centerpiece for our own holiday traditions?
Heritage or Broad Breasted?
Simply put, a heritage turkey is more like what our forefathers put on their Thanksgiving table, and broad breasted is more like the turkey your mom put on the table. Broad breasted white turkeys were selectively bred over the past 50 years to put on maximal breast meat in minimum growing time – resulting in lots of white meat that’s less expensive.
Heritage turkeys are far less common breeds, and look more like what you’d expect to see in a classic wild turkey. They have proportionally smaller breasts, darker leg meat and generally more flavor. Heritage birds are also older than conventional birds at the age of slaughter (26-28 weeks compared to 14-18 weeks), which results in sturdier meat. Of the estimated 200 million industrial turkeys, only 25,000 are heritage breeds, so supporting their continued growth and demand can help preserve the earth’s species diversity.
The broad breasted turkeys from Parker Creek Ranch, unlike grocery store counterparts, have lived well – moving freely within a spacious, natural environment. They have more breast meat than heritage birds, yet unlike grocery store counterparts, were raised in low-density, sustainable circumstances so the natural environment is less disrupted. Both heritage and broad breasted turkeys from Parker Creek Ranch are raised antibiotic-free, whereas conventionally raised turkeys are given antibiotics throughout their lives.
Conventional grocery store birds are also typically raised in crowded indoor spaces, and put on a huge amount of breast meat in a short time. These intensive farming practices guarantee the extremely low price, but at what cost?
Thanksgiving is a symbolic holiday. After all, we’re gathering with friends and family to celebrate the abundant harvest in our community – which, fortunately, can include a local humanely-raised turkey.