Heritage breed turkeys, first and foremost, are not the frozen hormone-pumped varieties you find in most supermarkets around Thanksgiving. Many mass-market birds were genetically bred to have larger breasts to serve a growing consumer demand – often so large they can’t walk or breed naturally. “Heritage” is an overarching term that comprises more than 10 different breeds retaining certain natural characteristics and behaviors: natural mating, a longer lifespan, and a slow growth rate. They are typically given acres of land to roam; are chemical, drug, and hormone free; and live like an undomesticated turkey would.
So, how does it taste? It’s hard to generalize across all the different breeds of heritage turkey, but the common opinion is that they are much more flavorful than industrial turkeys. They’re not gamey, but buttery and rich, likely due to their diverse diet and ability to grow and move around freely.
Tips for Thanksgiving:
• Heritage turkeys cook more quickly than a broad-breasted bird, so the biggest danger is overcooking them.
• Buy a heavier bird than normal: their bones are heavier, so account for 1-1/2 lb. per person, and know that you’ll have as much dark meat as white meat.
• Be ready to order ahead of time, as they often sell quick.
• If you can’t find heritage breed turkeys, opt for local natural and pasture-raised Broad-Breasted Whites
Where to Get a Heritage Breed Turkey
All for One, and One for All
Nestled on a historic farm in Goshen, AOOA aims to create a biodiverse landscape with educational properties (stay tuned for its programming this spring). This D’Artagnan Foundation regenerative farm and farmstand offers pre-orders on Heritage Standard Bronze turkeys for $17/lb. To pre-order, folks can email firstname.lastname@example.org or message AOOA Farm on Instagram or Facebook. Home chefs can pick up their bird—or birds, if you opt for Muscovoy Drake ducks or Noisy Heritage roosters—just before Thanksgiving, from November 19-21.
Gray Family Farm
In New Windsor, the Gray family grows organic produce and meats in sustainable ways. Gray Family Farm follows Joel Salatin’s agricultural methods, providing local Hudson Valley denizens with fresh CSA harvests. Order Bronze turkeys through the online dorm and pick them up onsite through November 23. Select from three weight ranges and note that the Gray family refuses to overfeed or cut back on feed for turkeys to ensure exact weights. (They also don’t inject their Bronze and Broad-Breasted White turkeys with any fillers or liquids to make weight.)
Pound Ridge Organics
For a year-round indoor farmers’ market, look no further than Pound Ridge Organics. True to its name, this CSA and teaching kitchen raises organic birds. The pasture-raised turkeys roam on 60 acres of open orchard grass. They feast on a GMO- and corn-free diet made of Hudson Valley wheat and flax. When turkeys eat local, healthy feed, they develop healthier fat and crispy, firm skin. Pound Ridge Organics cultivates Bronze, Narragansett, Bourbon Red, and Palm Heritage turkeys, as well as a few Broad-Breasted Whites. The turkeys also eat organic paprika peppers, marigold petals, and field-grown alfafa. Sign up for the Pound Ridge Organics newsletter, as orders are only available to web subscribers.
This quaint Dutchess County farm has been family-run for over three decades. In that time, Northwind Farms has cultivated all-natural rabbit, goat, quail, duck, goose, pork, lamb, and guinea hen. Everything is grass-fed and raised in verdant pastures. However, one of Northwind’s most popular offerings is its heritage breed turkeys. Check the website and social media on November 19 for availability of additional New Holland and other heritage turkeys. There is a hold on orders for now, while Northwind processes more birds.
Quattro Farm Store
Find custom cut meats, Italian specialties, and even soft-serve ice cream (in warm-weather months) at Quattro Farm Store. Call the store at 845.635.2018 or visit the Union Square Farmers’ market on Saturdays in NYC or the Rhinebeck Farmers’ Market on Sundays to place your order. The Quattrociocchi family breeds its own Bourbon Reds, and stocks other harvest-time specialties like venison and pheasant.
Bonus: Natural Broad-Breasted White Turkeys
This year, Stone Barns teamed up with Hemlock Hill Farm to provide the lower Hudson Valley with fresh Thanksgiving turkeys. Hemlock Hill grows Broad-Breasted Whites in an all-natural, antibiotic- and hormone-free lifestyle. The team takes immense pride in the quality of its poultry and its 35-year commitment to sustainability and humane practices. All birds are butchered fresh to order—and if you’re ordering directly from Hemlock Hill Farm, do so by November 18. The center carries carry birds ranging from 16lb to 30lb.
If you order through Stone Barns, select a pickup time November 23 and 24. Slots are booking up fast, so make your reservation right away. These birds are $8 per pound, and are being sold alongside a pre-packed, seasonal vegetable box.