Here's our newly updated guide to finding a sustainably raised turkey for your special holiday dinners. Remember to look for farmers' markets, local co-ops and natural food stores that sell pasture-raised and heritage turkeys.
If you're planning on serving turkey this Thanksgiving, have you ordered your bird yet? I'm guessing there are three possible reactions to this question: the self-assured nod of the well-versed foodie, the panicked "I've gotta get on that!" of the more forgetful among us and the "Why would I order one? I'm getting a Butterball from the grocery store." If that last one is you, you're certainly not alone, but we think you'd be better off choosing a pasture raised turkey or a heritage turkey. Traditional breeds are best suited to be raised in a sustainable manner and reproduce naturally, unlike the common Broad Breasted White found in industrial operations and, unfortunately, served at the majority of Thanksgiving dinners. In fact, heritage turkeys recently won in a taste test over conventional turkeys. So, now that you're convinced, where can you find one? Let's break it down by region:
A friend of mine living in Madison, Wisconsin recently looked for help through Facebook by posing the following question: "Madison friends: any advice on where to buy a fresh local turkey for t-day?" She got many helpful responses of farms that raise heritage turkeys, including Ruegseggers Farms and JenEhr Family Farm. Slow Food Chicago has this guide for a variety of purveyors in the area so you can also shop local!
A similar model to Heritage Foods in California, Marin County's Belcampo Meat Company lets you order your pastured turkey online and then pick it up the week of Thanksgiving at their scheduled "Meat-Up." Slow Food Russian River is collaborating with the Sonoma County 4H on the Heritage Turkey Project 2013. Beyond Northern California, try Eat Wild's directory, which includes a clickable map so you can find the best locally-available bird for the big day.
Mary's Turkeys sells organic, free range and heritage wholesale to many stores in the Northeast especially. Check the website to locate a store near you. Saugatuck Craft Butchery in Westport, Connecticut, offers sustainably raised turkeys from BN Ranch.
Belmont Butchery, in Richmond, Virginia, also takes orders for heritage Thanksgiving turkeys. Green Acres Farm in McDavid, Florida also has turkeys for sale who are "currently foraging in an acorn-rich pasture."
Heritage Foods USA purchases heritage turkeys from Good Shepherd Turkey Ranch in Kansas and Leaping Waters Farm in Virginia, available for purchase online through their website and delivered right to your door.
Local Harvest also offers an array of heritage turkeys that can be delivered nationwide (or can be picked up locally.)
Find a Farmers Market through the USDA. It's late in the season, but many are open year-round!