sustainable turkey

Your salad greens are from the best vendor at the farmers market. Your wine is as clean and local as can be. How can you be sure that your holiday bird is the best quality turkey possible? We asked this very question to the founders of Grass Roots Farmers’ Cooperative — a cooperative of family-run farms committed to the craft of small-batch farming. With supporters ranging from Bulletproof founder, Dave Asprey, to media maven, Arianna Huffington, Cody Hopkins and Andrea Todt, are on a mission to normalize the important practice of regenerative agriculture. Here’s everything you need to consider to but the best quality turkey this Thanksgiving…

A key component of finding a healthy and delicious turkey is knowing that is was pasture-raised where it can forage and roam. Not only does the animal lead a happier life, but the meat is also more nutrient-dense and has higher omega-3 fatty acids, which provides benefits like reducing the risk of heart disease and improving mental health, among many others. This also means a tastier dish you can feel good about giving your family. It’s better for you, the animal and the environment.

The Foolproof Guide To Selecting A Thanksgiving Turkey

Pasture-raised meats are an eco-friendly choice for your dinner table. In well-managed pasture-based systems, there is a symbiotic relationship between the animal and the soil. Manure is more evenly distributed over a larger space. And because the animals till the soil as they graze, the rich nutrients in the excrement can be broken down and absorbed into the soil, ensuring its fertility. (This study details how grazing cattle increases the amount of carbon in the soil, which improves its fertility and slows global warming.)

Grass Roots farmers’ cooperative monitors its impact on the land and measures its carrying capacity. All our farmers are careful to only produce the number of animals the land can bear. And they all take measures to ensure minimal impact. Here are a few:

+ None of our fields are sprayed with chemicals or pesticides—not only because doing so can be harmful to the animals, the land, and the consumers who eat them, but also because organic manure is a safe haven for insects and becomes its own productive ecosystem.

+ To prevent erosion, our animals are moved regularly so that they are not destructive to hillsides.

+ All our farms establish a buffer zone around water ways to prevent possible contamination. Animals are fenced out of carefully identified areas so that vegetation will remain in place and will protect water sources.

Grass Roots farmers work to minimize our ecological footprint and are committed to appropriate scale and regenerative farming practices. And we encourage all eaters to consider the impact of their food choices. If you want to be a conscientious omnivore, remember: If it’s not raised on grass…pass! This is especially important to remember when choosing your Thanksgiving turkey.

Beware those turkeys that are marked “fresh.” You may wonder what the difference is between a “fresh” turkey from the store or a frozen turkey delivered directly to your door. Frozen is often fresher than a “fresh” turkey from the store. Many store-bought turkeys have been harvested months in advance and kept just below 32 degrees. The turkeys don’t fully freeze at this temperature and can still be labeled as fresh.

Our farmers’ turkeys are frozen at peak freshness, as soon as they are harvested, to preserve their quality and to keep your family free from food-borne illness. When buying a frozen turkey, buy it early to ensure you have plenty of time for it to thaw.

How To Thaw The Thanksgiving Turkey

Below are a few tips and tricks from our cooperative of family farmers on how to best prepare your turkey and make sure your holiday meal is a hit:

Use The Refrigerator | The fridge is the slowest, but safest, from a foodborne illness perspective, place to warm up that bird. With this method, allow 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds of turkey. So, if you have a 15 lb bird, you’ll need 3 full days to thaw. And don’t forget to place a baking sheet or tray underneath your turkey to capture any liquids.

Dunk In A Cold Water Bath | If you have a big enough container or sink, you can also bathe your turkey into thawing. This method is a bit faster but more labor intensive. You’ll need to submerge your turkey in cold water—don’t use hot water, doing so will put that turkey in the foodborne illness temperature danger zone. You’ll need to change the water every 30 minutes to keep that bird clean. And it will take about 30 minutes per pound to defrost, so 7.5 hours to defrost a 15 pound bird, compared to 3 days in the fridge.

Or, Use A Cooler | Don’t have any room to spare in your fridge or sink? We get it. A cooler will work just fine. Wash it really well and make sure the lid has an air-tight seal. The frozen turkey will provide all of the refrigeration needed for thawing safely, so there is no need to add any ice. The thaw time for this method is about the same as it is for the fridge (24 hours for every 4 to 5 lbs) and we recommend checking it after two days.

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