Too many turkeys? Well, too many types of turkey, anyway. To be sure you’re getting what you want for your holiday feast, you’ll need to read labels, understand terminology, and probably order in advance for the very best Thanksgiving bird this year (visit eatturkey.com for more information). Here are some turkey 101 basics to help
Fresh: Village Prime Meats (475 Main St, Armonk 914-273-5222) carries “fresh” turkeys ($3-$4/lb), which simply means they have never been refrigerated below 36ºF. The birds may have been stored for several weeks; nevertheless, they still generally taste better than “deep frozen” birds and can be perked up further with brining.
Natural: Chappaqua Village Market (12 King St, Chappaqua 914-238-4948) and many supermarket chains carry “premium brands” (a term which has no official definition), usually labeled to clarify whether they are antibiotic-free and given no animal-based feed. (This is good to know, since feed with animal byproducts was a suspect in mad cow disease.) Murray’s, Bell & Evans, Maple Lawn Farms, and the locally available Plainville Farms are “fresh” (as defined above) and so-called “natural” (a term that also has no official definition), which can mean no artificial flavor or color ingredients, chemical preservatives, or other artificial or synthetic ingredients. The cost is $3-$4/lb.
Kosher: As with other kosher meats, this refers to a method of butchering and dressing the animal. Empire is a widely distributed kosher brand, sold both fresh and frozen, at about $2-$3/lb. Empire is found at Sammy’s Kosher Market (720 Bedford Rd, Bedford Hills 914-241-4477) and Supersol of Westchester (1066 Wilmot Rd, Scarsdale 914-472-2240;
supersol.net), both full-service kosher markets. Supersol also carries Wise Poultry (both kosher and organic birds) from Pennsylvania.
Free-range: Technically, free-range means only that turkeys are given access to the outdoors, unlike pastured turkeys, which actually wander around grass. Balducci’s (15 Palmer Ave, Scarsdale 914-722-0200; balduccis.com) carries D’Artagnan, always cage-, antibiotic-, and animal byproduct-free. Mrs. Green’s stores around the county sell Eberly’s turkeys, organically fed from nearby Pennsylvania and free-range (although we cannot know how much time the birds actually spend outside). Whole Foods Market (100 Bloomingdale Rd, White Plains 914-288-1300; wholefoodsmarket.com) offers organically fed turkeys as well ($3-$4/lb). D’Artagnan poultry, commercial but organic and free-range, is also widely available in supermarkets, such as Stop & Shop ($3-$4/lb).
Fresh-killed: If you’re trying to go locavore, you may prefer to look for recently butchered and delivered turkeys, usually coming from farms closer by. Reserving one well in advance is a must and these birds are often on the smaller side. Dines Farm (518-239-8203; dinesfarms.net) will take orders for pastured turkeys, usually delivered to a central location. Stone Barns Center for Agriculture (630 Bedford Rd, Pocantico Hills 914-366-6200; stonebarnscenter.org) sells out of its local, pastured, and farm-killed Bourbon Red and Broad Breasted White turkeys fast. My Personal Farmers, a Hudson Valley farmers’ market online (mypersonalfarmers.com), offers local, organically raised turkeys for order. These turkeys will cost roughly $4-$6/lb.
Check out agmkt.state.ny.us or slowusa.org for other leads on non-industrial Hudson Valley turkeys. Many will require farm pickup. And don’t forget that these heritage-breed turkeys are smaller, have less breast meat, and sometimes taste denser and richly gamier than their industrial cousins. You may have some explaining to do.
// Judith Hausman