Too early to be thinking about Thanksgiving? I don’t think so. It’s heirloom turkey time. Order now before you miss out.
Factory farms have been producing most of the meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products in the United States for decades. Although the food is cheap and convenient, this method can create a host of problems, including the loss of small family farms, pollution and animal stress.
Numerous varieties of livestock—Bourbon Red turkeys as well as Red Wattle pigs, Tunis sheep and Barred Plymouth Rock chickens—are endangered and disappearing from our farms and more importantly, from our dinner tables. What’s a localist like myself supposed to do?
A Time magazine article from June 13, 2005, summed it up by saying, “Eat them or lose them!” Run, don’t walk, to your farmers’ markets and find those local farms. At a minimum, go to your computer and find a source for heirloom meats like Bourbon Red, Buff, Narragansett or Slate turkeys where you can. I recommend, Heritage Foods USA,
Heritage Foods USA was formed in 2001 as the sales and marketing arm for Slow Food USA, a non-profit organization founded by Patrick Martins and dedicated to celebrating regional cuisines and products. The Heritage Turkey Project, which helped double the population of heritage turkeys in the United States and upgraded the Bourbon Red turkey from “rare” to “watch” status on conservation lists, was Heritage Foods USA’s first foray into saving American food traditions. In 2004 it became an independent company dedicated to saving not only turkeys but also Native American foods, pigs, sheep, bison, cows, reef-net salmon, goats and all breeds of food livestock.
Think of the preservation of these rare breeds like the preservation of a historical building or your grandmother’s secret recipe handed down for generations.
As I’ve stressed before, one important leg on the tripod of sustainable cuisine is buying locally. I’ve said before that I would rather buy products from local farmers who take care of their land as a sustainable resource (whether or not they are certified organic) over certified organic monoculture farms located several states away.
So why I am touting a mail-order food product that will consume fossil fuel during the shipping process? Glad you asked. These producers across the country are committed to making wholesome, delicious and sustainably produced foods available to all Americans. More importantly, they have traceability. You will know the farm that produced the food, the conditions under which it was raised, the animals’ age and feeding histories.
Just imagine if the federal government decided that all our food products should have the same traceability requirements: We’d finally have a score card to be able to tell genetically modified corn, wheat or soybean products from the “real” thing. And we’d have only happy cows.
It’s all about gathering the necessary information to make informed decisions (see www.factoryfarm.org.) Know how your meat was raised, where it came from and who is raising it. I’m a firm believer in the taste, flavor, health and environmental benefits of pasture-raised meats. It’s good for you, good for the animal, good for the environment and good for the community. So go find that heirloom turkey at a local rancher near you now before demands outstrips supply!
As Nina Planck, former creator and director of farmers’ markets in the U.S. and Great Britain, once stated in the New York Times, “You’ve got to eat the view—or lose it.” Oh yea, don’t forget to check out the Turkey Cam!