A Fowl Choice: an organic and free-range Thanksgiving

Stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and pecan pie are all foods that Americans salivate over when thinking about Thanksgiving. However, a traditional Thanksgiving surrounds the turkey, the real star of the show. When preparing for Thanksgiving, some people want a fat, plump turkey, while others are looking for a leaner, healthier choice. Like common food trends towards everything organic, this Thanksgiving, the organic and free-range turkey will be highly sought after.

Whether for the ethics of it, the taste, or healthier possibilities, many people are looking for cleaner eating, even for Thanksgiving.

You hear the term organic at a lot of vegan restaurants, but free-range is another popular buzzword that is surfacing in reference to poultry meats, particularly with turkey and chicken. It is very common now for customers to request free-range and organic at a market or restaurant.

According to the Washington Post, the U.S. Department of Agriculture describes the terms 'free-range' and 'free-roaming' as method of farming husbandry that allows animals access to go outside for at least part of the day. The livestock stay close to water and feed. Where there is similarity to regular poultry, however, is that the USDA does not have regulations or specifications of density control or flock size.

While organic also includes the trait of being free-range, not all free-range is organic. The term is used loosely throughout the food world, but the legitimacy and integrity of these labels is up to the reputation that the corporations and businesses intend to uphold.

If yore looking for organize, free-range range turkeys for Thanksgiving as well as year-round, there are a handful of markets on the westside that cater to these needs. They list the farms they buy from on their websites for all inquirers.

Whole Foods provides organic, free-range turkeys for sale on Thanksgiving and year round. They buy their livestock from Mary’s Farms located outside of Stockton and Diestel Turkey Ranch in Sonora due to their ethical practices and care for the animals. They have a 5-step welfare rating in order to determine where to buy from. With the first step being how they treat their livestock, and the last being no modifications, cutting their beaks off, etc.

Ethical practices aside, there’s also a difference buyers can taste. “Mary’s free-range turkeys are leaner and you can taste the quality; they’re tender and softer”, said Julio Guzman, Grocery Team Trainer for Whole Foods. Taste, as well as price, can differer because free-range turkeys are not on a controlled diet.

Gelson's Supermarket, with locations scattered around the westside, sells organic turkeys that are fed vegetarian feed. The farm they buy from, Pitman Farms in Northern California, provides them with specific organic meat. In regards to the taste, Meat Manager Ziggy Aguirre thinks it all depends on the palette. "What tastes good to one person may not taste good to another." Turkeys range from $3.59 to $6.99 a pound.

Farmshop, a restaurant and artisanal market located in Brentwood, specialize in using seasonal ingredients and maintain a close relationship with local farms. Their turkeys are $80 (15-16 lbs.) a bird, and are available for Thanksgiving, and customers can make year-round special orders. They can also cook the turkey for you for $115.

Close to the SMC campus on Ocean Park Blvd., Bob's Market also sells organic turkeys, bought from Diestel Farms. Their turkeys range from $2.99 to $6.99 a pound, featuring their organic, free-range, or regular turkey.

Sprout's Farmers Market, a grocery store that holds its standards to selling fresh, organic foods at affordable prices, is also selling organic turkey for the first year ever, compliments to Mary's Farm, for $3.99 a pound.

The general consensus from the markets is that organic and free-rangel, though costing a fraction more than regular grocery store-bought turkeys, tend to taste better. Whether you are influenced one way or another, it's important to remember, it's your party and you can eat organic meat if you want to.