Thursday, September 23, 2010

Turkey Time: A Rant

Hi everyone.

It is that time of year, time to buy your Thanksgiving turkey.  That means its time for a little education!  There is an assumption that is common as the holidays roll around that turkeys are CHEAP.  Turkeys are anything but cheap to raise.  There is a dirty little secret that the grocery stores dont want you to know.

Turkeys are a "loss leader".

Thats right.  Turkeys are nothing more than a tool to lure you into the store to buy all the other stuff that goes with your big meal.  Stores lose a ton of money on turkey sales, but they dont care.  They make it up quickly on the margins of all the other goods we buy.  Like cranberry sauce in cans, pre-made stuffing mix,  jars of gravy, etc.  So when you see big ass turkeys at .59 cents per pound, you should realize immediately that the store is losing money.

Lets look at the facts.  Turkeys eat about 4 times as much feed as chickens eat.  Makes sense in that a turkey at maturity is about 4 times the size of a chicken when its processed.  So, if a chicken costs $1.99 a pound at the store, how the heck can they charge less than a dollar per pound for turkey?  Another thing to consider is that turkeys cost much more to process than chickens.  They take up more room in the cages that are needed to transport them to be processed, that means more expense for trucking, holding, etc not to mention the extra costs for the processor.   Turkeys are expensive to purchase too.  One baby chicken, or peep,  can be as cheap (cheep?) as .$50 cents per bird when bought in bulk, but usually are about $1.00 per bird when I purchase them.  Turkeys are much more expensive.  $5.50 per day old turkey poult is normal, more like $12 per poult for heritage turkeys. So, turkeys are 5 to 12 times as expensive to buy than chickens. Turkey feed is also 35% more expensive than chicken feed.  There is a higher protein content in the turkey feed, therefore much more expensive, especially with the cost of wheat this summer.

So its not a cheap transaction to purchase and raise turkeys.  There is another trick the stores use and that is the label "fresh turkey".  Fresh turkey can be labeled as such as long as the turkey has been stored at 29 degrees F.  They might have killed and processed that turkey months ago, but since it was held at 29 degrees, its technically still "fresh".  The flesh wont completely freeze at 29 degrees as there is enough sodium in the meat to keep it from freezing at that temperature.  So, its still "fresh" even though its not really fresh.  Think about it.  How would millions of turkeys be able to processed, distributed and sold in a matter of about a week?  They cant be, so they are processed ahead of time and held at temperature as a "fresh" bird.

So here is the real meat of the story.  We raise our turkeys on pasture.  Free range.  Completely free range.  They have livestock guardian dogs with them to keep the fox and hawks away.  They have access to feed and grit free choice.  They wander and eat all the grasshoppers and bugs they can find.  They eat grasses and plants.  And snakes and mice and voles.  Anything they can find.  They have shelter but they prefer to camp out under the stars every night.  Rain or shine.  They are happy birds.

Because we are small, we cant offer specific weights for our customers.  Big or Small is about as close as we can get.  The birds are already approaching a really nice size.  We are going to have to process a few of them soon so that they dont end up as 45 pound birds or bigger.  These babies get BIG.  We cooked a 29 pound bird last year and it was the best turkey we have ever eaten.  Leftovers are awesome!

At the risk of keeping this post going longer than necessary, remember this:  if you want a real free-range, bronze turkey for Turkey Day, you should let us know NOW and get your order in so that you can guarantee yourself a great bird for the holidays.

We are pricing our birds at $75 per bird, regardless of size!

A 20 pound bird then is about 3.75 a pound.  A bigger bird costs less per pound.  That is an increase from last year but these birds will be BETTER.  We have bronze turkeys this year and they are delicious.

In my opinion, our birds are the same fresh or frozen, if anything, the frozen birds are even MORE tender than our fresh birds.  So, if you want a smaller bird, get yours NOW (or as soon as we process them)  and put it in the freezer.  If you insist on a fresh bird, you can get yours before Thanksgiving but these are going to be big turkeys.

Another suggestion is purchasing a big turkey, cutting it into pieces and roasting them that way.  Saves time cooking, everything cooks evenly, browns evenly and you dont have to worry about mis-timing the bird.  You may not have a big bird to carve for the family but you wont have to worry that the green bean casserole hasnt gone in the oven yet because the bird wasnt cooked!

One more thing, as far as cooking instructions for our birds, for whatever reason, fresh or frozen, these birds cook up FAST.  Much faster than conventional turkeys.  I have no idea why.  They will surprise you.  I think about 10 minutes per pound at 300 degrees is about right.  Prepare for them to be finished cooking early.

So, lets recap:

  • Turkeys are a loss leader.  They really are expensive to raise.  They arent cheap for us to raise, thats why we charge a lot.  They eat a lot!  
  • Grocery stores call things "fresh" even when they arent truly "fresh"
  • Our birds are truly free range.  
  • We are small and dont have the luxury of raising a bird for you to a specific weight.  You can opt for a bigger or smaller bird, but beware, the smaller birds are probably going to be pretty big...
  • $75 dollars per bird this year.  No matter what the weight.  The bigger the bird, the better the value!
  • Honestly, if you freeze your bird, it will be even more tender than buying a bird fresh.  The freezing process helps to tenderize and "age" your turkey making it taste great
  • Cut up your turkey and roast it in pieces, or freeze half of it and cook the other half.  
  • Our turkeys will cook up FAST!!!  Be prepared for them to be done early.  Check them often!

Thats about it for today.  Order now, they will be going quickly.



Anonymous said...

Can we assume that there have been inquiries as to turkey price? Ahhh, the price of quality. People seem to forget that they spend that much, if not more on those store turkeys if they go for the "Spend $100 and get a turkey for .59/lb" deals that are offered by grocery stores. As Steve said, it's a self-subsidized turkey, but most people don't see it that way.

SteveandAlina said...

Hi, I know Annette was planning to come out here to the midwest again and we were planning to order more meat. Does she have room to bring a Turkey? We would take one. I just don't don't know if it is transportable. :)