Turkeys make me anxious. Not the birds themselves, but the fact that I have so much riding on their success. Since our turkeys are free-range, we lose a few over the three and a half months we raise them. When you couple that with the fact that we pre-sell 95% of the birds, the risk is high that we've overcommitted to our customers. I'd hate to disappoint a family that has entrusted us to provide the centerpiece to their festivities.
Besides the initial few we lost in the brooder (infant mortality) we lost about 12 turkeys that wandered away and were picked off by the coyotes. Our turkey pasture is surrounded by an electric fence which prevents our livestock guardian dogs from going through, but not the turkeys. Turkey feathers act as a pretty good insulator so they have no problem squeezing through without getting shocked. I imagine they were gleefully chasing grasshoppers and didn’t notice Wile E. Coyote stalking them. When I went searching, I found a few trails of feathers, but not much more. I certainly need to make some improvements to the way we raise turkeys, but fortunately we ordered about 25% more than we committed to selling.
This year was particularly stressful as we learned about half way through the process that Dewberry Hills Farms, our poultry processor, was closing operations. As outlined in a previous newsletter, this sent quite a shockwave through those of us in Central Texas running pastured poultry. Fortunately, I was able to get a slot with Burgundy Pastured Poultry Processing which is in Hillsboro, TX - about 120 miles north of the ranch.
Since it's a two-hour drive to and from the facility, I decided to spend the day in Hillsboro while they processed the turkeys. Burgundy is just a few miles outside of town so after washing out the trailer at a local car wash, I decided to have breakfast. Hillsboro is the county seat of Hill County and has a lovely downtown area with lots of shops and restaurants. I was able to get a day pass at a local gym so I could freshen up with a shower and a sauna.
The turkeys came out great; sizes ranged from 13 lbs. to 22 lbs. with most of the turkeys between 16 lbs. to 18lbs. So what size turkey do you need? A good rule-of-thumb is to have 1-1/4 lb. of uncooked turkey per person. This will yield about 8 oz. of cooked turkey per plate. Of course this assumes you're going to have lots of sides and an alternate protein like ham. If turkey is your only meat, I'd recommend 2 lbs. per person. This will ensure a good range of both dark and white meat. If your weekend involves shopping and decorating (or hosting guests) more leftovers means more time outside of the kitchen. I typically make enchiladas with the leftovers, and then a nice pot of turkey soup, but the internet abounds with recipes so don’t be afraid to go overboard when picking out your bird.
We thank you all for inviting us to your family feast. We certainly "give thanks" to you for helping us enjoy the many pleasures of farming and pray that your holiday season is filled with joy and laughter. Please consider us for Christmas too. We'll have a few beef tenderloins and holiday hams available. If you're interested, jump over to our order form and reserve yours today.
We will not be attending the Tuesday Holiday market in Elgin this week.