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Purchasing of fresh, all-natural birds a growing national trend
Angie Brant Cumberland Times-News
OAKLAND — As we gather to observe the Thanksgiving holiday, many will be dining on a golden-brown roasted turkey. Meal preparations often include a trip to the grocery store to pick up a frozen turkey, but for others, shopping is done on the back roads of Garrett County.
William Lantz, senior agent at the Garrett County Cooperative Extension, said the practice of purchasing fresh turkeys is a growing trend. The number of farms raising fresh turkeys is small, but successful.
Lantz said consumers are demonstrating an increased interest in how crops are grown, and in the case of livestock and poultry, how the herd or flock is fed and raised.
The number of frozen turkeys purchased and prepared each year is far above the total of fresh turkeys sold, but one area farmer said his sales are growing with each passing year.
Sam Yoder said that nearly every one of his birds was spoken for by the beginning of November. He said many of his orders are secured through stops at his family’s produce stand. Yoder operates a century-old farm that has passed through his family for several generations. On the 170-acre farm on Pleasant Valley Road, Yoder and his family raise chickens, turkeys and draft horses.
Yoder has raised turkeys for more than 25 years. Initially, he raised a cross-breed of domesticated and wild turkeys, but changes in state policy forced him to change his flock to double-breasted white turkeys. For the past several years, he has increased the number in his flock to 300, based on demand.
Yoder prides himself in offering an all-natural turkey and said he raises nearly all the feed for his flock on the farm. He does not feed the turkeys any artifical additives or antibiotics. Yoder and other area farmers also raise turkeys for an eco-friendly market in the Virginia area. Yoder sent 50 birds to the market every month, beginning in August.
Many of Yoder’s orders are standing orders and buyers order their bird for the following year on the day they pick up their turkey for Thanksgiving. He said he even has a few customers who travel to his farm in the summer months to see how he raises the birds.
“I have even had customers come and take pictures of the turkeys with their cell phones to show their families on Thanksgiving Day,” he said with a chuckle.
Once an order is placed, Yoder asks each customer to choose a day for pickup. Most birds are dressed just hours before pickup and Yoder never freezes the birds, he merely chills them. Fresh turkeys are sold based on weight after they have been dressed.
“The general rule of thumb is that toms will lose around nine pounds and hens lose around seven pounds after we dress them. For a large turkey, say one weighing 50 pounds, it would not be unusual for it to lose 10 pounds,” he said.
He said the majority of his sales are for whole birds and many times the birds are too large for standard-size roasters. One of his early sales was a bird weighing 46 pounds at dressed weight.
Raising turkeys is not difficult for Yoder, who said he abides by a simple adage, “Turkeys are either healthy or they are dead.”
The first step in the process, beginning at a hatchery, is the fertilization of eggs. The eggs hatch in 28 days and the young turkeys are called poults. The poults are then shipped to farms across the country, including the one owned by Yoder, within 24 hours. Yoder said the poults are at their most vulnerable when they are being shipped, through the U.S. mail, because of the temperature and shipping measures. It is imperative to keep the young poults warm. For the next five weeks, the young turkeys are carefully monitored and kept warm; this is called brooding.
According to Yoder, the size of the bird is largely dependent upon the length of the growing cycle. The typical life cycle is 16 to 18 weeks for an average-size turkey. For larger turkeys, a life cycle of 26 to 28 weeks is required.
Yoder said the difference between the taste and flavor of a fresh versus frozen turkey is subjective.
“The main thing that I hear is that customers want to know where and how they are raised and be sure that they are indeed fresh and all-natural,” he said.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 45 million turkeys are consumed each Thanksgiving in the U.S. In 2010, more than 242 million turkeys were raised, with an average live weight per bird of 28 pounds, with nearly 6 billion pounds of turkey processed.
Contact Angie Brant at abrant @times-news.com.
Buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland? Call Jay Ferguson of Railey Realty for all of your real estate needs! I take great pride in referrals, and I assure you, I will take great care of your friends, family & colleagues!
I am especially thankful to live in such a great area. I’m really proud of my hometown & the area it has grown in to. ‘Thanks’ to all of you who make this such a great place to live, work & play! From my family to yours, we hope you have wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! Eat lots of turkey and watch lots of football…and get to bed early for shopping tomorrow 🙂
Thanksgiving (United States)
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For Thanksgiving in other countries, see Thanksgiving.
The First Thanksgiving, painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863–1930)
Observed by United States
Date Fourth Thursday in November
2010 date November 25, 2010
Celebrations Giving thanks, spending time with family, feasting, football games, parades
Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving Day, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, has been an annual tradition in the United States since 1863, when during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving to be celebrated on Thursday, November 26.
The event that Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated to give thanks to God for helping the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony survive their first brutal winter in New England. The first Thanksgiving feast lasted three days, providing enough food for 53 pilgrims and 90 Native Americans. The feast consisted of fish (cod, eels, and bass) and shellfish (clams, lobster, and mussels), wild fowl (ducks, geese, swans, and turkey), venison, berries and fruit, vegetables (peas, pumpkin, beetroot and possibly, wild or cultivated onion), harvest grains (barley and wheat), and the Three Sisters: beans, dried Indian maize or corn, and squash. The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating “Thanksgivings”—days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought.