When I think about harvest time, I think about Thanksgiving. One of my favorite holidays, thanks to all the amazing food. There is just something about sitting down with family and enjoying a delicious meal that does something to my soul. My family prepares several signature dishes but our pastured Turkey is at the top of the list. I am lucky enough to enjoy this delicious protein year-round. Because turkey is one of our specialties here at John Henry’s Meats.
As Thanksgiving approaches, you can buy a turkey almost anywhere, for almost any price. I have even seen them for FREE at the local grocery store when you purchase so much in other grocery items. So why would you choose to buy a pasture-raised turkey versus a conventionally raised turkey?
Turkeys are natural omnivores. Pasture-raised turkeys forage for grass, they eat bugs, worms, small mice plus fruits and veggies. This diverse diet leads to incredible flavor! Conventional turkeys are housed indoors and fed a high protein diet consisting of mostly grains like soy and corn. Turkeys are what they eat and the flavor comes out in the meat.
Pasture raised turkey meat contains higher amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids. These Omega-3 fatty acids come from the lush green grasses and foliage we plant for our turkeys to eat. The good fats are then stored in the turkey’s muscle meat. It is important for us, humans, to get enough Omega-3’s in our diet because without them our brain and heart function suffer. Omega-3 fatty acids also help reduce inflammation in the body and can help prevent chronic illnesses like cancer, arthritis, and autoimmune conditions.
In addition to diet, the environment in which a turkey is raised plays a big factor in taste as well. Pasture raised turkeys are raised as the name implies, out on pasture. That means, as soon as they are old enough to leave the coop, they do! Luckily for us and them, they don’t need to be adults to move out.
When baby turkeys are freshly hatched, they need to be very warm, at least 95-100 degrees F. They are very susceptible to cool drafts and if they get just a little bit chilled, they will almost certainly die. The first couple of weeks are very important and we do our best to keep everyone safe and warm. We have their care down to a science but we are always excited to get past the baby phase.
After a few weeks, their cute fluff is gone and replaced with real, warm feathers. This means they are ready to go outside. Turkeys are expert roamers, with their long legs and large feet and powerful wings, they can cover some ground each day if they want to. We provide our turkeys with ample room to room. They even have some friends in their pasture, some very docile cows who don’t mind a little bit of company.
Because our pasture raised turkeys are great roamers, they are grow slower and are leaner than conventionally raised turkeys. It is very important to follow a recipe like the one below to make sure your pasture raised turkey turns out perfectly. My main advice to you would be to make sure you do not overcook your turkey.