November 21, 2001, Wednesday


Plan Ahead to Assure Your Heritage Next Year

By MARIAN BURROS (NYT) 572 words

IF you want a heritage turkey on the table next Thanksgiving, it's time to start thinking about it. The farmers will grow only the turkeys they can sell, so orders must be placed no later than January or February.

Slow Food U.S.A. is putting customers in touch with farmers. The group can be reached by writing to it at 434 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10013 or by e-mail at The turkeys cost $3 to $4 a pound, not including shipping.

For additional information about heritage turkeys, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy can be reached through

Some farms can also be contacted directly by e-mail. Among them:

Good Shepherd Ranch, 730 Smoky Valley Road, Lindsborg, Kan. 67456-9553. The contact is Frank Reese Jr. at gsrt@alltel .net.

Seldom Seen Farm, P.O. Box 351, Amenia, N.Y., 12501. Pamela Marshall, at

Cabbage Hill Farm, (914) 241-2658. Annie Farrell, at

For this article, I roasted eight turkeys -- four heritage turkeys, two supermarket turkeys (one standard and one free-range) and two Eastern wild turkeys (a hen and a tom). Each was stuffed only with onion and celery and roasted in a plastic turkey-cooking bag, following directions. The turkeys were rubbed with oil and seasoned with salt.

When the thickest part of the thigh reached 175 degrees the turkeys were taken out of the oven, allowed to rest in the bag for 15 minutes, then outside the bag until they had cooled a little more.

I tasted each on its own and then compared it with the other turkeys.

The dark meat was the most flavorful on all the turkeys, especially the heritage breeds, which have much more of it. Their leg and thigh meat is several shades darker, and very juicy. It has the turkey flavor that is merely hinted at in the supermarket turkeys.

The white meat, which the heritage birds have less of, does not look that different, but it is much juicier and has a little more flavor.

The flavor of the dark meat of the Eastern wild tom turkey was flavorful, the white meat less so. The hen was not as tender and juicy as the tom.

The free-range supermarket turkey was so soft it hardly needed chewing. It had minimal flavor.

The other supermarket turkey had almost no flavor and was very dry.

It isn't possible to be conclusive about differences among the heritage birds after tasting just one of each type. But I did note some subtle distinctions among those I sampled.

The Bourbon Red was more flavorful and somewhat juicier than the Narragansett. The dark meat of the Standard Bronze was also good, the white meat not quite as flavorful as the Bourbon Red's.

The Jersey Buff had excellent dark meat and was chewier than the others. The white meat of the Narragansett was very mild, the dark meat flavorful but a bit chewier than the Bourbon Red's.