We’re coming into turkey’s big moment, that time of year when our all-American bird becomes the meat du jour rather than just an also-ran after the big three of beef, pork and chicken.
Every year, more and more people are becoming accustomed to getting their birds from small producers rather than the 800-pound gobbler in the room (talking about you, Butterball). One of those small producers is Mark Brady (OPRF, 2009). Along with partner Katie Kennedy, Brady is the farmer at Timberfeast, which specializes in grass-fed meat. The land for Timberfeast has, Brady tells us, “been in our family for six generations; it’s been passed down and expanded over time. Currently, my cousin and uncle farm most of the acreage with corn and soybean crop rotation. We started Timberfeast on about 5 acres of pasture, direct marketing pasture-raised and organic-fed meat and eggs.”
Both he and Kennedy, Brady tells us, “had been independently supporting small farms and shopping at the farmer’s markets. We connected originally because we were both buying grass-fed butter from the same farmer. Our farm dream – and our desire to fill our own bellies and the bellies of those in our community with healthy, organic, sustainable food – grew from there.
“We spent the first half of 2015 touring farms across the Midwest and East Coast. While we were in Maine working on a farm, we were inspired by a successful neighboring farm that was raising healthy chickens and turkeys outdoors on grass. That year, we ordered 100 chickens and 30 turkeys to raise on my family’s land. It started out as sort of an experiment, but we found that we really enjoyed the work and that people loved the products we were producing, and it grew from there. We are self-taught: we learned how to raise animals successfully with the help of books and the Internet! There are now Facebook groups with thousands of farmers available to answer questions, provide feedback, and discuss what works and doesn’t work. It’s been so helpful to be able to receive real-time feedback from other farmers. “
We’ve purchased heritage turkeys, Red Bourbon and others, from small local producers, and have been pleased with the results – the meat seemed to taste more like turkey than most turkeys we were buying from the grocery store. Why is it, I asked Brady, that turkeys from small farms, raised the old-fashioned ways, seem to taste better than the commercially produced birds that are sold frozen in grocery stores? He explained that “Our pasture-raised turkeys have a deeper flavor than commercial birds because they eat a diverse diet including a variety of grasses, seeds, insects, and freshly milled local organic grain.”
There are also, as Brady explained, nutritional advantages to his turkeys. “A number of studies,” he said, “show that pasture-raised meats have healthier omega 3 fatty acid ratios, more vitamins, and less fat than confinement-raised meats.”
Have you purchased your Thanksgiving turkey yet? Brady and Kennedy have about 100 turkeys left, but as we get closer to the holidays, they’re probably going to go fast. You can buy the turkeys (fresh, never frozen) at Sugar Beet, and you can reserve a turkey on their site to pick up in Oak Park on November 19: https://www.timberfeast.com/product/thanksgiving-turkey/