What's the Difference: Farm-Raised Turkey

One of the popular questions is what makes our turkeys different.  To start, we will need to describe how a turkey makes it from the farm to the Thanksgiving table, so if you don't like thinking about how we get meat, this is not the article for you. 

Commercial Turkeys

Poults, or baby turkeys, are shipped to the company's farm.  The birds are raised to 28 weeks of age, indoors, under environmentally controlled conditions.  The temperature, daylight, and food are all regimented to be what is best for the turkeys.  Interesting side note, the turkeys that are used for breeding are never allowed more than 10 hours of light a day as they are growing to not prematurely stimulate them to lay eggs.  This is an example of how controlled their environment is.  The hens are artificially inseminated by the farmer.  Another interesting side note, that is unique to turkey farming.  The boys and girls are separated, and are always artificially inseminated to help protect the health of the female turkey. 

Those that are raised for meat are also carefully controlled, depending on what market they are meant to fill.  A hen turkey will consume around 35 pounds of feed and reach 14 - 20 pounds (live weight) in about 12 to 14 weeks.  Toms, male turkeys, will consume 90 pounds of feed, reaching 35 - 42 pounds in 16 - 19 weeks.  

A crew will then come in, capture the birds to ensure no bruising, and they will be taken away for processing.  Total, commercial farmers make about $0.76 per pound for the processed turkey.  This is why everything is carefully budgeted, from feed costs, electricity, heat, and workers salaries.  All to ensure that the farmer makes money from each turkey.  

Farm Raised Turkeys

 Our turkeys are raised in a very different environment.  We get the turkeys either in the mail or discounted from the local Tractor Supply Company. In the beginning we treat them like our chickens, putting them in a warm brooder, with all the chick starter food that they could want.  As they get bigger and put on their adult feathers we slowly start turning the heat lamp off.  When they are big enough to no longer need the heat lamp, they go to our outside shelter.  

David built the outside shelter himself, with a padded floor, shaving, fresh air ventilation, and again all the food they can handle.  We keep them locked inside for a few weeks to establish their home.  We go inside daily to replace waters and check the feed, getting them used to human contact.  Once they know where their home is, we start opening the door for a few hours every day.  Finally getting to all summer.  They have a large fenced in pasture where they can explore to their hearts content, 

We feed them in the morning and night to get them back in to their shelter.  This helps protect them from nighttime predators.  We have lost a few to hawks and eagles, but once they get larger the day time predators don't pick on them anymore.  To process them, at about 4am we get the turkey transport crates and load 4 turkeys up in each one.  David drives 2 hours to the butcher and they are dropped off.  To be able to legally sell them we have to go to a USDA approved butcher - but we also really like the butcher, so we are willing to drive farther.  We try to give them a great life and only one bad day.  


So there you have it.  The two different ways of raising turkeys.  I'm not here to comment on which way is better, since commercial farmers are able to produce food on a massive scale that we just cannot do.  But we always do appreciate the support that you give us when you purchase one raised our way.  It tells us that you also value giving the turkey a life that it was meant to have.  Thank you for your support.