Let’s talk Turkey – as in the bird, not the country… or the poem by Benjamin Zephaniah for that matter! Our turkeys come from Gartmorn farm in Clackmannanshire. We’ve sold them (and their chickens and ducks) for years and they’re really, really good. What makes them so good? In this blog, we discuss what makes a good turkey and what you should look for when purchasing.
What is the difference?
The reason our turkeys taste so good is the taste and the texture, and that’s down to the environment in which they’re reared and length of time they’re grown.
The poults (that’s what wee turkeys are called) are hatched in late June and early July and spend their first few weeks in their poly-tunnel homes toughening up for a free-range life. After that, the sides are taken off their poly-tunnels and they’re free to roam. Fair weather or foul they spend the time with only a poly roof for protection and bales of straw to roost on. This is about as similar as it’s possible to get to their native American environment and is truly free range, with the stimulation necessary for high animal welfare standards.
Length of Time they grow
Slow-growing gives plenty time to develop flavour and meat.
Secondly, the length of time they’re grown. The turkeys we sell for Christmas have enjoyed twenty-two weeks of sun, rain, pecking about in the soil, pecking each other (stag turkeys can be really bad-tempered) and doing what turkeys do in the environment they prefer to do it. Slow-growing gives plenty time to develop flavour and meat. Pound for pound a free-range turkey has more meat to bone than the equivalent weight barn-reared supermarket bird.
So what of barn reared birds? They are hatched in early September (September!) and grown for a target weight. There is some variation in breeds, but not much, so birds hatched earlier grow more than birds hatched later. The problem is that the frame of the smaller birds can hold much more meat, rather like putting a Mini engine in a Jaguar, so while the price per kilo of turkey is lower, the price per kilo of turkey meat isn’t really that different. If it’s value you’re after, and who isn’t, then it’s a free-range turkey that makes sense.
Pound for pound a free-range turkey has more meat to bone than the equivalent weight barn-reared supermarket bird.
White or Bronze turkey?
The most commonly asked question at Christmas is?……….What’s the difference between a white and a bronze turkey? This has nothing to do with the colour of the meat – both turkeys have white breast meat and brown leg meat, but perhaps unsurprisingly white turkeys have white feathers and bronze turkeys have feathers ranging from black to a brown copper colour and everywhere in between.
White turkeys increased massively in popularity as turkey replaced goose as the traditional festive bird; with white feathers, and so white quills, any birds that weren’t plucked cleanly didn’t look so bad. As the market changed away from frozen butterball turkeys (remember them?) the easiest way to demonstrate a difference with what went before was to leave a few quills in. Is there a difference in taste? Perhaps a little, with bronze birds having a slightly more ‘gamey’ flavour, but any difference is more pronounced in the brown meat. That’s why we’ve introduced our full boneless bronze turkeys, as we think there’s little point in having a bronze bird if you’re only going to eat the breast meat.
How much do you need?
Once you’ve realised that free range is the way to go, decided between white and bronze turkeys – and whether they’re boneless or not, how much do you need to buy? If you want leftovers, and who wouldn’t, then reckon on 500g of bone-in turkey per person. If you’re buying a boneless breast roast or a boneless bronze turkey then we reckon you need 250g per person. Turkeys are best suited for larger gatherings of at least six-plus. If there’s only two or three of you then you’re best with a boneless roast, or why not try a free-range chicken?
If you are looking for suggestions then try our festive boxes that contain all your Christmas meat in one great value package. If you want to see all our turkeys then head over to our festive shop and have a look at our full range. If you have any questions just put them in the comments below.