Reserve a pastured turkey now for Thanksgiving

But you can wait a few months to order your free-range pumpkin


Remember last November, when you thought it would be cool to buy a pasture-raised turkey for Thanksgiving, but all the farmers you called laughed at you because they had sold out months before? So humiliating.

Believe it or not, it’s time—right now—to reserve your locally grown, pasture-raised turkey for Thanksgiving 2013. Trust me, the folks who do this every year have already ordered theirs, so if you want one on your table, you’d better get moving.

Unlike commercially produced birds—even those labeled “free-range” or “organic”—pastured turkeys are raised primarily outdoors, where they eat a diet of grass and bugs supplemented with feed. Traditional (“heritage”) breeds like Narragansett, Bourbon Red, Standard Bronze and Royal Palm grow more slowly than commercial turkeys, can survive outdoors, and yes, can reproduce all by themselves. The fast-growing Broad Breasted Whites raised by commercial producers are so out of kilter, they cannot mate.

Fans say pastured turkeys have a fuller flavor than the commercial birds. (Experts say they should be cooked at a relatively low temperature to preserve moisture.) In a 2011 Bon Appetit blind taste test, three out of four panel tasters preferred the heritage breed. But you will pay more for the privilege of eating one, about $7.50 to $8 per pound for a whole bird. Expect to plunk down a deposit for your turkey, but don’t expect to be able to request a specific weight. They weigh what they weigh, usually somewhere between 10 and 18 pounds.

Here are a few nearby farms accepting orders now for Thanksgiving turkeys:

180 Degree Farm: Bourbon Red, Sweetgrass, Royal Palm breeds. Birds weigh 9 to 16 pounds each and cost $7.50 per pound. Pickup will be at the farm in Sharpsburg. E-mail to start the reservation process; a $29 deposit is required.

Darby Farms: Narragansett and Bourbon Red breeds. Birds weigh an average of 15 pounds and cost $7.50 per pound. Pickup will be at the farm in Good Hope or at the Decatur Farmers Market. E-mail with your contact information to start the reservation process; a $28 deposit is required.

Heritage Farm: Bourbon Red and Standard Bronze breeds. $7.90 per pound, $50 deposit required. Pickup at Cumming Harvest Locally Grown, Douglasville Farmers Market, Dunwoody Green Market, Peachtree Road Farmers Market, or on farm in Bowdon by appointment. E-mail to start the reservation process.

And OK, if you miss out on placing an order now, you may still be able to get a pastured bird in November. White Oak Pastures in Bluffton sells its heritage American Standard Bronze turkeys online and through several outlets, including area farmers markets and stores. As the holidays approach, they usually post Thanksgiving turkey ordering and purchase information for all you slackers.

Do you know of another farm accepting pastured turkey orders now for Thanksgiving? Add it as a comment below.

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  • Tim

    Great post Deborah and some wonderful farmers you mentioned there.

    One thing I’d like to add is that, in our experience, there is rarely such a thing as a 12-13 pound heritage turkey. When we raised Bourbon Reds we found that females (hatched in April) were often in the 6-9 pound range by Thanksgiving, while males could be in the 14-18 pound range. Other breeds, such as Standard Bronze and Narragansett could be a little larger, but the only sure way for us to get someone a 13 pound bird would be to “process” a male a month early. Often, customers would request a bird of a specific size, and it was very hard for us to accommodate, try as we may.

    I offer this simply to help set expectations on the consumer side that, unlike the industrial Broad Breasted White turkeys, there is a lot more variability, a lot less control and a LOT more cost in raising heritage birds. Still, for many reasons, it’s the only bird that we’d allow to grace our Thanksgiving table.

    Thanks to everyone for supporting local, sustainable and humane agriculture.

    Nature’s Harmony Farm

  • Hiller

    Great post… as usual!
    You can also try Sarah Burnett at, near Ellijay. They carry pastured poultry as well as goats.

  • Deanna Orr

    Good Morning,

    Do you process your own turkeys. I am a teacher and we are doing a native american project with feathers. Would it be possible to either purchase them or come pick them up when they are available? Also we have a culinary lab that would benefit reading any information you would have about your turkeys. Thank you

  • Cameron Smith

    I will also be raising Bourbon Reds this year along with pastured poultry and pork in Cleveland, GA. All organic soy-free fed and pastured. For more information send me an email at