Photo by The Bitten Word/Flickr CC
Where to look:
1. Stop being a supermarket zombie. To find a true heritage turkey that was raised on a real farm, you will need to get out of the supermarket.
2. Explore alternative stores. Independently owned grocery stores and co-ops tend to be more willing to work with traditional farmers, and their staffs are generally much more knowledgeable about the meats, eggs and dairy products they offer. They are probably the best place to look for traditionally raised, heritage breed turkeys. Good examples of such stores are: Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco; Marczyk Fine Foods in Denver; Gateway Market in Des Moines; and Poppies Gourmet Farmers Market in Brevard, North Carolina. Examples of some of the excellent co-ops I'm familiar with are the co-ops in Boise, Idaho; Bozeman, Montana; and "The Wedge," in Minneapolis.
3. Frequent your local farmer's markets. Locating a farmers market is easy: many states and localities have lists available, as does USDA . We are selling the bulk of our own turkeys this year at local farmers markets--but remember not to assume anything about how the foods were produced. Ask the farmers you're buying from how the animals were raised and what they were fed.
4. Look for CSAs. An excellent way to know exactly where your food comes from is to join a CSA (community supported agriculture). You buy shares of what a farm produces. Generally, each "shareholder" (member) gets a box of farm products each week, which members pick up at a certain spot. Many CSAs encourage their shareholders to visit the farms for themselves, so they can really know where their food is coming from and how it was raised. When they first started, most CSAs were just doing produce. But in recent years, I've spoken with people from all over the country that are doing CSAs that include turkeys and other animal-based foods. CSAs can be found by searching Eat Well Guide and Local Harvest .
5. Look online. Many smaller farms and ranches sell directly to consumers with a website. The other day, for example, I was speaking at a Sierra Club conference in Kentucky and met a local farmer who's raising Bourbon Red heritage turkeys. She told me she says most of her birds through her online store. An excellent online source of good turkeys is Heritage Foods USA . Be sure the Web site provides plenty of photos and information about how they raise their animals. If it's just showing photos of the food products, that's a bad sign.
6. Seek chefs committed to sustainable sourcing. It can be especially hard to trace the origins of your food when dining out. If you're planning to have Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner at a restaurant, look for chefs dedicated to sourcing from sustainable farms and ranches. Then they can do the work for you. Fortunately, the number of such restaurants is growing. Here are just a few of my favorites: Lumiere, near Boston; Blue Hill, Savoy, and Green Table in New York City; White Dog CafÃ©, in Philadelphia; Lantern, in Chapel Hill, NC, North Pond, in Chicago; Zingerman's Roadhouse, in Ann Arbor, MI; Highlands Bar and Grill, in Birmingham, AL; Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, CA; Frantoio, in Mill Valley, CA, and Oliveto, in Oakland, CA. An organization that promotes sustainable sourcing to chefs (and on whose board I sit), Chefs Collaborative, has a Web site listing of participating restaurants throughout the country that buy all or some of their ingredients from sustainable farms. Another good way to find such restaurants is through Eat Well Guide .