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Food snobs fork over $225 for taste of heritage turkey
Question of the Day
For example, heritage turkeys might account for about 10,000 to 20,000 of the birds consumed this Thanksgiving. In contrast, more than 46 million conventional turkeys will be eaten, according to the National Turkey Federation.
Butterball is the most popular brand, and broad-breasted white is the most popular breed.
The price difference can be quite steep, with conventional turkey averaging about $1 per pound, while the heritage variety can cost up to $12 per pound.
Is it worth it?
“You can definitely taste the difference, but not everyone likes it,” said Andy Smith, culinary historian and author of “The Turkey: An American Story.”
Heritage turkeys are gamier and chewier and have to be prepared differently. For example, they have to be cooked at a lower temperature.
“A lot of people prefer a flavorless turkey, because that’s what they’re used to,” Mr. Smith said.
So, yes, it might cost you 12 times as much for a chewier, gamier bird, but — consider it a contribution to the health of our ecosystem: Mr. Smith and Mr. Kamp agree that the increasing popularity of heritage turkeys helps promote biodiversity.
“Reviving the heritage turkey is a great story,” Mr. Smith said. “Without the slow food movement and small farmers, a lot of these breeds might not have survived.” Slow Food USA is a national group that aims to increase biodiversity and sustainability in food production.
But with such a large price tag, isn’t the heritage turkey inevitably an elitist taste? Not necessarily.
“I think it’s a myth that good eating is the province of the wealthy,” Mr. Kamp said.
Yes, the heritage turkey is on the pricey side, but other free-range varieties are cheaper.
“And if you have a fairly average turkey, you can always snob it up a bit by brining it,” said Mr. Kamp with a laugh.
Speaking of Thanksgiving food myths, Mr. Smith can’t resist a parting irony: Turkey wasn’t on the table at what was considered to be the first Thanksgiving.
“They ate deer,” he said.
About the Author
By Tom Harris and Madhav Khandekar
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