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So What's the Deal with Heritage Turkeys, Anyway?

Side view of roasted turkey on set table with side dishes

This year, Honest Weight is offering Black Spanish Turkeys from Slingerland Family Farms. While we’ve sourced poultry from the Slingerlands for a few years, this is the first time we’ve brought this particular breed to Honest Weight. So what’s the deal with heritage turkeys? Do they really taste better?

We did some research and are pretty convinced: Heritage birds are the way to go for a special main course this Thanksgiving!

Heritage Breeds are Rare

Because they’re more costly to raise, heritage breeds are rare. The Black Spanish exists in fewer than 5,000 breeding birds in the U.S. However, they were commercially farmed up until the beginning of the 1900s, which is when commercial hybrids took over in popularity. Now, only .001% percent of the turkeys raised annually in the United States annually are heritage breeds that exist more or less the same way they have for over a hundred years. Most of the turkeys we see at supermarkets today are hybrids called Broad Breasted Whites, Broad Breasted Bronzes, or Giant Whites. Their names are a reflection of what they’ve been bred for: these birds grow big FAST. They’re ready for market in 14 to 16 weeks, as opposed to 25 or 30 weeks for a heritage bird that won’t even reach the same size in twice the amount of time.

Heritage Turkeys are Tasty and Nutritious

Many chefs say that heritage breeds are generally more flavorful because growing slowly allows them to develop fat that helps them cook better, as turkey is typically a very lean meat (one of the reasons it’s known for being dry...but not this year!) The popular hybrids are primarily white meat, which is what we’ve learned to expect from poultry in the U.S. Heritage breeds have more dark meat, which is generally more flavorful and moist. It’s true that dark meat is slightly more caloric, but let’s be honest- that’s not really what Thanksgiving is about. Dark meat is also more nutritious, featuring a  higher mineral content, with iron, zinc, and selenium, and higher levels of CLAs (Conjugated Linoleic Acid, a powerful fatty acid primarily found in grass-fed meat and dairy products that has been linked to a variety of health benefits). The fat that is in dark meat is predominantly mono- and polyunsaturated kind, which, according to the American Heart Foundation, “can have a beneficial effect on your heart when eaten in moderation and when used to replace saturated fat and trans fat in your diet.”

Slingerland Family Farms Poultry

Slingerland Family Farms utilizes environmentally responsible agricultural techniques and methods to produce high quality, sustainable products for the local community. They raise the animals on pasture focusing on natural, multi-species, rotational-grazing systems, and give their animals ample space and opportunity to forage—both beneficial practices, ensuring healthy animals and land. You can read more in their Producer Profile.

Black Spanish Turkeys at Honest Weight Food Co-op

Our Black Spanish Heritage turkeys from Slingerland Family Farms will be between 14 and 18 pounds. We’re getting them in very limited quantities, so order yours soon if you’re interested in stepping up your Thanksgiving game this year and trying out a fresh, flavorful, local, pasture-raised heritage turkey. See details about all of our turkeys being offered this year, as well as a way to save 10% off HWFC housemade sides!

Edit: As of 11/14, we have sold out of Black Spanish Heritage turkeys! You can still preorder other turkeys by the 16th, or pick up a Plainville Natural or Organic turkey starting on the 17th.

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