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Thanksgiving Face-Off: Heritage Breed Turkeys Versus Conventional

There’s a reason we only eat turkey once a year- because frequently, it’s gross. It’s dry and stringy and it almost tastes like something but not quite. It’s what the totalitarian government in a dreary sci-fi dystopia would force its worn-down populace to eat. At best, it’s something you can use as a gravy-deliverance system and with enough mayo it makes a decent sandwich filler, but it’s never something fantastic.

People, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be this way. A few years ago, we were on the verge of giving up on turkey altogether and just having Thanksgiving with a meat that we actually like- duck or beef or something. But before we threw in the towel, we gave heritage turkeys a try and it was a revelation. We had moist, flavorful turkey and it was cinch to roast.

Heritage turkeys are breeds of turkey that were once common but became rare once turkey production became industrialized. Whereas heritage turkeys were bred for flavor, the Broad Breasted White that you can buy at the grocery store has been bred to reach its market weight quickly. And when you taste the two, the difference between a turkey bred for flavor and one bred for efficiency is obvious right away.

The heritage breeds we’ve had (Royal Palm and Bourbon Red), both had moist meat with a rich flavor. While turkey breast usually has mild flavor (to say the least), the breast of these birds was more like dark meat in taste. Moreover, since the breast wasn’t huge compared to the rest of the bird, cooking it all the way through without drying it out was a breeze. In fact, I’ve stopped doing any kind of tricks to cook the turkey. I just rub it down with salt and pepper and baste it with butter and roast it just like I would a chicken. No more brining and no more burning your deck down after you tip over your turkey deep fryer. Finally, heritage breed turkeys are sustainably raised, usually free range and organic, so it’s something you can feel really good about feeding your family and loved ones.

A heritage breed turkey is significantly more than a conventional bird, but Thanksgiving only comes once a year. It tastes amazing and it saves you a lot of hassle. Try it one year and you’ll know where that extra money went.

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