Turkey time means no turkey for you

Published 8:00 am Friday, October 21, 2022

Turkey supplies are expected to be so short this year that we may have to rethink the customary presidential pardon and put those two birds in the processing line.


There are several reasons for this. Basically, the problem is there aren’t enough birds to go around this year. The primary culprit is bird flu. “In the turkey industry, 5.4 million turkeys have been depopulated because of (bird flu) exposure,” the USDA said back in July. In case you need a translation of that bureaucratese, “depopulated” is the government’s way of saying 5.4 million turkeys died. Kaput. Zapped by the flu.

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It’s pretty late in the game, but you might want to think about contacting local farmers who raise turkeys for the season. Local turkey producers turn out some beautiful meat. It isn’t cheap like those butterball turkeys that in the past have sold for one dollar a pound–or less. Locally grown turkeys taste better and are almost always raised in wholesome conditions while being fed pasture grass, bugs and a supplement of non-GMO food. Those supermarket birds are almost always factory produced.


But finding a local turkey these days is like hoping there won’t be any of that Jello fruit salad that your Aunt Martha makes every year.


There used to be more local farmer sources, but they have dried up. The primary reason is we do not have a turkey processing plant nearby and doing the processing on the farm is a huge chore. When we were farming in Rutherford County, we raised several dozen turkeys every year free ranging on pasture. We processed them on the farm because we had all of the necessary equipment and training. Still, it was totally exhausting work. A week was wiped out when you include the setting up of equipment, cleaning and testing. Our turkeys were pre-sold in a matter of days long before processing.


Reda Harvey, who owns the Mill Spring Farm Store, has farm-raised turkeys every year, but they are pre-ordered. If you want one, you need to get in line now for next year. Her supplier is Joyce Farms in Winston-Salem. The company has a cooperative arrangement with other farms to supply turkeys raised under their strict guidelines requiring no antibiotics, no growth stimulants, nothing artificial. Incidentally, growth stimulants have been banned in poultry, dairy cattle, veal and lamb since the 1950s, but producers still include this info on their labels.


“I place my order back in August for my repeat customers. Each year they let me know if they want to order a turkey for the following year,” she said. “I’m not aware of anyone in this area who raises turkeys for Thanksgiving.”


We have no local processing plant that will accept turkeys. There used to be one in Marion, but it closed several years ago.


You might want to consider buying one at the grocery store–if you can find one–and freezing it.


Better luck next year.


Larry McDermott is a local retired farmer/journalist. Reach him at hardscrabblehollow@gmail.com