Heritage Turkeys : From Farm to Ark to Table
In every family, there is a pride of history and lineage. This is no different for poultry or livestock. Heritage turkeys are the progeny of poultry that was bred for flavor.
Norman Kardosh, Frank Reese’s mentor, spent his life teaching Frank how to raise heritage turkeys responsibly. He knew he was leaving his legacy to Frank, and he stressed the importance of pure genetics. Norman said, “If you mess them up it will take fifteen years to straighten out… if it’s even possible.”
The Standard Bronze is the perfect heritage turkey — flavorful, healthy, and robust — and represents not just a line of genetics, but the farmer’s love and care in breeding the best heritage turkeys in the world.
By the early 1970s, factory farming would take over, and turkeys were most commonly bred for traits that would genetically deform them and destroy their flavor, namely how fast and how big they could grow. Within twenty years, turkeys shot up with chemicals to keep them alive and so top heavy they could not walk were the norm. In fact, they were growing so fast that turkeys became so inexpensive as to nearly bankrupt the industry.
The American Poultry Association is America’s oldest agricultural association and the keeper of the standards for poultry breed identification. Frank is the first farmer to receive accreditation by the APA certifying his heritage turkeys as purebred to the standards set in 1873.
Patrick Martins, Founder of Heritage Foods USA explains, “In 2001, when I was running Slow Food USA, I put the Standard Bronze turkey on the Slow Food “Ark of Taste” — a metaphoric vessel designed to highlight agriculture on the verge of extinction — and suddenly I found myself in the turkey business, launching Heritage Foods USA to help Frank expand and successfully deliver his flock of heritage turkeys, now numbering around 10,000 birds per year.
Frank’s birds are not only a model of responsible farming but also delicious. They bring a character of flavor and juiciness that could never be found in anything produced by Big Agriculture. They do cost more, but the price reflects the true cost of raising a free-range bird that has not been genetically redesigned to flatter the bottom line rather than the taste buds.
Modern, industrially raised adult turkey’s breasts are so unnaturally large that they cannot reproduce without assistance, and need to be artificially inseminated, which is why cheap turkey meat is available in the supermarket all year long. Frank’s turkeys mate naturally and are only ready to be harvested for Thanksgiving.
Frank Reese’s heritage turkeys are now available for pre-order for Thanksgiving directly from Heritage Foods USA, including the Standard Bronze as well as Bourbon Red, White Holland, Black Narragansett, Royal Palm, Jersey Buff, and Slate breeds.