Hi friends! This is Meredith. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. This year, I want to encourage you to source your holiday meal from local farms and to really dive into what it means to buy from local farmers.
Wendell Berry said "Eating is an agricultural act." When you consume food, you are participating in the agricultural system. The choices you make can either support healthy practices and the local economy, or large scale farming, multinational corporations and environmental degradation.
We are offering two turkey choices and I want to give a description of each so you understand what you are buying.
Regional non-gmo turkeys from Lancaster Coop (120 miles from Hamilton): These turkeys are raised on pasture and fed non-GMO certified grain. They obtain nutrients from grazing on pasture and eating grain. They live in coops that provide shelter while also allowing free access to pasture. $5.50/lb
Local turkeys from Day Spring Farm in Middleburg (7.5 miles from Hamilton):
These turkeys are fed certified organic grain and raised and processed on a local farm by hand. They live in moveable coops with full access to pasture.
(Turkeys from the Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-Op)
The majority of turkeys (including locally grown) are ordered from hatcheries as day-old poults. The poults can cost up to $11/each depending on volume. Production turkeys (and chickens) have been bred to grow efficiently and to put on more breast meat than dark meat. These genetics cost money.
While the turkeys are young, they are very vulnerable to predation, temperature changes, and disease so the farmer may end up with considerable loss. While they are growing, they consume considerable amounts of grain. Organic or non-GMO grain can be up to twice as expensive as conventionally grown grain. Labor is extensive as the turkeys need to have their food and water refreshed twice a day and may need to be moved to fresh pasture. They also take longer to grow than chickens (roughly 4 month versus 8-10 weeks for chickens). The final step is processing. This can be done on-farm by the farmer or at a USDA certified processing plant. There are very few small scale processing plants in our area so most locally grown birds are processed on-farm. This is a positive as it reduces stress on the birds during traveling time. After the birds are butchered, they are wrapped and chilled in refrigerators.
(Turkeys from Day Spring Farm in Middleburg)
How does this differ from conventionally raised turkeys?
If you buy a turkey from the grocery store with no special designations, it most likely lived it's entire life inside a barn. The barns are climate controlled because the birds generate a significant amount of heat. The lights are dimmed to keep the birds calm. They have free access to food and water at all times to encourage the fastest growth rate. The first time they see sunlight or feel a breeze on them is when they leave the barn to be transported to the processing plant. By controlling all the variables in the system (feed, climate, predation), the farmers (or more accurately, corporations) can minimize loss and keep prices low. A very small percentage of the profit actually ends up in the farmer's hand.
Beyond the raising of the animals, there are also the economic considerations. When you buy locally, your money remains in the local economy.
Please let us know if you have any more questions! We'd love to answer them.
We're currently taking deposits for holiday turkeys, call the shop or stop by to make your reservation soon!