turkey days

FarmerKhaiti
FarmerKhaiti

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This past weekend was our 4th Annual Turkey Harvesting for Thanksgiving. We raise gorgeous turkeys every year for this special holiday. Harvesting our turkeys on the farm by hand is intense, but this way we get to control every aspect of our birds from day 1, until they leave with a customer, in a cooler on ice.

day 1 and they were already sampling greens!

6 months and 20 lbs later...

The night before each harvest day, some of the turkeys were brought out of their paddock into a holding area for their over night fast, which empties their systems and makes processing cleaner. Early in the morning, we got the scalder heating over a wood fire, and prepared the stations for plucking and eviscerating. Our customers come to help with the processing, and take home their fresh Thanksgiving turkeys. We are elated to be know such wonderful folks who can look at a bird and know this is where their meat actually comes from.

All of our turkeys sold out early this year, which is wonderful, except for having to turn a few people down. Next year we will be offering heritage Bourbon Reds as well as our succulent Broad Breasted Turkeys. They will be raised the same way- on pasture, living a free and good life, eating organic grains, foraging and exercising, but still supervised, protected and cared for.

Did you know that most turkeys in the store are 12-16 weeks old when they are harvested? Our turkeys are 24 weeks old when we harvest them, that’s 6 whole months. At this age, they get to actually mature and develop a nice layer of fat which has a self-basting effect. Don’t be afraid of good fats from healthy, pastured animals! Maturity in our turkeys also means they actually taste like TURKEY. If you’ve only had grocery store birds, an LTD Turkey will blow you away with tenderness and flavor. A pastured turkey living outdoors 24/7 is healthier too, and you are what you eat. We all know the wonders of a little fresh air & sunshine in our lives, so why not expect that for the animal you eat as well?

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!   ( Yes, we are beginning to reserve turkeys for next year. Email us to get on the list!  farmers AT LTDfarm DOT com)

 

A couple of technical notes on turkey harvesting :

We changed two major things this year in our harvest techniques. We switched from using a knife to cut the jugular vein, to a single shot from a tiny 22 bullet, and THEN we bleed the turkey out. The bullet ensures no suffering to the bird, and instant death without fear. Everyone comments on how calm the birds are. We still contain the bird before the shot, as their sheer muscle reaction is dangerously powerful. We use a solid wood box with a hole in one side, a lever to hold the bird’s neck in place, and cushions around the bird to hold it’s body through the death throes. We don’t want to use “killing cones” because we feel the turkeys will be frightened if we suspend them upside down (to place them in the cones) while they are still alive.

The other thing we changed is that we are now “TAA- DAAH” scalding our turkeys, instead of dry-plucking. Dry plucking is nice if you want to spend an hour per bird, pulling feathers out by hand, but scalding is wonderful if you want to save your wrists from repetitive stress syndrome! These two changes have significantly improved our scenario on harvesting days. If you have any questions about these processes, let us know. The more turkeys being peacefully harvested in the world, the better.

 

3 comments

  • Do the turkeys still bleed out completely with the head horizontal to the ground? We have two free range birds that we know will not fit in the killing cone for the chickens and the thought of hanging them up by their legs before dispatching seems cruel to me as well. What did you use for the padding inside the box, and what size is your box? I’m in Western Washington and have enjoyed your website.

  • Hi there – We’re glad you enjoy the website! In terms of the turkeys, it has been an ongoing education learning how to best process them with the least amount of stress and pain as possible. This last method we used worked pretty good, but not perfect. We used feedsacks filled with straw for padding inside, but that was a messy endeavor. We think they bled out just fine though, all of our turkeys looked amazing after processing.
    This year though we are probably going to use killing cones, as we think that might actually be less stressful for the bird. Since we can’t chop off their heads for an immediate death like a chicken or duck, we think a very sharp knife could accomplish this as well. Of course, we will have to buy or make big enough cones. After we see how that goes we will report on our opinion of all the methods used so far. Good luck!

  • Thank you for your response, I’m still wavering on how to process them without damaging either the meat or me. I was thinking of using the goose cone, but I doubt by November there would be any hope of fitting them in at all, so I’m looking for alternatives.

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