Your Guide to Bay Area Sustainable Turkeys

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Thanksgiving is a huge business in this country. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 45 million turkeys are purchased for Thanksgiving alone. Most of those turkeys are raised in confinement, on large factory farms, and are types which are raised for their large, white breasts. In the Bay Area, we have access to many types of sustainably-grown, free-range, and heritage variety turkeys that you may be interested in considering for your dinner table.

A heritage turkey is an old variety of turkey that is not the typical broadbreasted white variety. Organizations and individuals are working to bring these turkeys back into the mainstream -- their flavor is usually more complex and interesting than typical turkeys. To read an excellent summary of sustainable turkey types, check out the Sustainable Table turkey guide.

Below, you will find a list of some Bay Area stores that will be selling sustainably-grown turkeys. Because of the demand of sustainable and small-production turkeys, all turkeys listed below should be pre-ordered from the store. Call the stores directly, and soon, to discuss an order.

L = Local (generally 150 miles from the Bay Area)
H = Heritage
FR = Free Range
O = Certified organic


(H, FR) Good Shepherd Ranch Heritage Turkeys. Good Shepherd turkeys come from Lindsborg, Kansas from a co-op of growers who all raise less than 1500 birds. The Good Shepherd Ranch has worked with Heritage Foods USA to provide heritage breeds of turkeys, and the ranch's turkeys are certified under the Animal Welfare Approved label. $6.99/lb.

(L, FR) Branigan's Turkey from Woodland, California. These turkeys are raised longer than standard in order to develop flavor.
(FR, H) Mary's Heritage Turkeys from the Fresno area. This is a turkey project which is a joint effort of Slow Food and small farmers.
(L, O, FR) Willie Bird Turkeys. Willie Bird is from Sonoma County, and has been providing turkeys since 1948. While not all Willie Birds are organic, Avedano's will be providing organic turkeys.

(H, FR) Good Shepherd Ranch Heritage Turkeys. Size will be 8-24 pounds. Price is $6.99/lb.
(L, FR, H) Bill Niman Heritage Turkeys. Mr. Niman is the founder of Niman Ranch, but stepped away from that nationwide operation last year. He's back to ranching on a small scale on his ranch in Bolinas, and this year's turkeys are his first flock. Edible San Francisco has a great article about his turkeys. If I were cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year, this would be my first choice of bird.

(L, H, FR) Hudson Ranch Heritage Turkeys. Turkeys raised in Napa's Carneros Region. Size will be 22-30 pounds. Price is $7.75/lb.
(H, FR) Good Shepherd Ranch Heritage Turkeys. Size will be 8-24 pounds. Price is $6.50/lb.
To order from Fatted Calf, call (707) 256-3684 before November 2. Pick-up from the Napa store Thanksgiving week or from the Berkeley Farmers Market on Tuesday, November 25.

(L, H, FR) Wind Dancer Ranch. [SOLD OUT 10/29/08]
(L, O, FR) Willie Bird Turkeys.
(L, H, FR) Slow Food Russian River (PDF) runs a program with local 4H and FFA clubs. You can order turkeys direct from them. While not certified organic, the turkeys are being fed an organic diet and are available for pick-up in Petaluma.