Bird versus Bird: A Farm and Factory Showdown.

Categories: Holidays

Heritage Turkey
In college I had to take a communications class, which involved giving a persuasive speech. Luckily, I don't remember mine. But, I'll never forget the girl who persuaded us not to eat chicken. It worked. She did a standing ovation-worthy physical interpretation of a chicken with all the alterations to make it grow faster and thicker.

For 20 minutes she stood before us wingless (so they don't fly and break their necks on the top of their cages), feetless (so they don't get stuck to the wire they stand on for hours and hours at a time), beakless (so they don't peck each other after losing their ever-loving minds) and big breasted (because chickens want to feel pretty too).

I didn't ask for all that to happen, but regardless, I didn't eat chicken for at least two years. I'm still not completely at peace with the bird. So, when I heard about heritage turkeys, I decided to give it a try despite the higher cost. But, for a true side-by-side comparison I had to also cook a "conventional" bird. Game notes follow:

Safeway Turkey
The Players
The heritage turkey was from Rhineland Farms in Glen Rose. Naturally raised, grass fed, butchered and frozen a few weeks ago.
Weight: 11 pounds
Cost: $6 per pound

The conventional bird was a Safeway turkey. No information on where it was from since the wrapping is already on the way to the dump. But, it was also frozen and was the cheapest turkey available.
Weight: 11 pounds
Cost: Free after $100 in groceries at Tom Thumb

Cooking Method
For years we've employed a high-heat roasting method that involves setting the oven to 425 degrees and placing the bird on its side, then flipping it from side to side every 30 minutes, twice, for a total of 2 hours. The bird finishes cooking breast side up for 20 to 30 minutes. The leg meat cooks faster but breast meat doesn't dry out. And since we're chronic procrastinators, this faster method usually gets us out of a jam. This year we employed the 'convection roast' setting on the oven, which made the process even faster. Maybe a little too fast. (Don't judge.)

After slathering in extra virgin olive oil, we stuffed the bird with vegetables, fresh herbs and, most important, Tony Cachere's Original Creole Seasoning -- which actually goes everywhere and on everything.

Physical Characteristics
Our birds were definitely "built" or "shaped" differently. The heritage turkey had a high breastplate that resembled a peak, whereas the Safeway turkey's breast was much shorter but more rounded. A mountain versus a sand dune, with at least a two-inch differential. The amount of meat on each breast was about the same.

The most obvious anomaly, however, were the legs. The heritage turkey had at least twice as much meat on its huge legs. Whereas the Safeway turkey had just a small amount of meat on what were comparatively anorexic legs.

Oddly, the neck of the heritage bird was also much bigger and thicker.

Heritage bird wins easy; and all five of my highly trained panelist concurred. The store-bought bird just had no flavor -- plates of meat were pushed aside and forgotten. The heritage bird had a lot more dark meat overall, which was thick and juicy. Granted, the heritage turkey wasn't the most amazing piece of fowl I've ever eaten, but it had flavor whereas the Safeway bird was just blah.

The texture of the meats was also different. I wouldn't say one was more tender than the other, but the heritage bird had more texture and the Safeway bird was a bit mushy.

One thing I noticed on the heritage that I've never before seen on a turkey was a quarter-inch (maybe less) layer of fat on part of the breast meat. After a quick Wikipedia search, this is attributed to the fact that heritage birds have longer life spans (over four months) that allow it to accrue fat layers.

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Tom Thumbs meat is terrible! They're absolutely the worst (aside from Albertson's) large food market in Dallas.


Wait a minute... you have a problem with Big Chicken chickens but buy $100 worth of "groceries" at Tom-freaking-Thumb???

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

I just buy the cheapest one I can find, regardless of torture method.  

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

Albertson's is a dump akin to the old Food Lion. I refuse to go to any Alberston's, on principle alone sir. TT's meat is ok.........I prefer Hirsch's Meat, on Parker and Alma in Plano.  


Ya, I'm cool with their apples, bread, toothpaste, etc. I'm not saying that the entire food supply chain is the end of everything. I'm just saying I had a particular instance where a persuasive speech in college had a marginal effect on me. I really try to buy local "when I can." It's a balance b/w what's affordable and realistic.

Also, Tom Thumb has the best play list every. The other day I heard James Taylor, Voices Carry/Til Tuesday and Tom Jones/What's up Pussycat all in one trip. Can't beat that.


Hirsch's meat is very good but If you can, try the meat at Rudolph's Meat Market in Deep Ellum. You'll never want to buy meat at TT ever again.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

The other day I heard the following at my find TT:

-Bread/It Don't Matter to Me-Barry Manilow/Can't Smile w/o You-Maroon Five

Tom Thumb is great, they have tiny carts for the kiddo, and there is never more than 5 people in the store-at once. 

ps-The songs were so soothing!

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