Guess Who's Coming As Dinner?
Peter Rubin investigates a post-organic ingredient for better dining: pampered animals.
It's a windy afternoon in late December, yet the three little old ladies are braving the elements to gather near us, bobbing their heads and clucking to themselves. It's hard to tell if they're eavesdropping or not. Even if they are, Paul Alward and Stephanie Turco, the couple who let the trio live on their property, are talking about them as though they're not here. "They love people," Turco says. "But they have a six-inch barrier." She reaches her hand toward one of the little old ladies, who immediately shrinks back and gobbles.In fact, the ladies aren't ladies at all. Nor little, nor old-Alward and Turco just call them that. They're not even female. They're male heritage-breed turkeys-Royal Palms, to be exact, prized less for their meat than for their foraging nature, which is ideal for keeping insects and pests away. They are three survivors of the year's 220-turkey Thanksgiving flock at Veritas Farms outside of New Paltz, New York, and while they might be meddlesome enough to earn their sobriquet, Alward and Turco keep them around as breeding toms to help sire next year's flock of holiday dinners. At $7 a pound, Veritas's turkeys are nearly six times more expensive than a supermarket turkey.What justifies the cost? Well, for one thing, they can walk around (and kibitz) freely. They eat organic feed grown locally by a nearby farmer, not institutional meal that contains the bone and feathers of other dead turkeys. At night, they sleep on ever-refreshed hay, the lower layers of which compost to create warm sleeping berths even in the dead of winter. Oh, and they can mate. Turkey fun fact: Factory-farmed turkeys in the United States have been bred to have so much breast meat that they can't reproduce without artificial insemination. The process, to read the accounts of those who have worked "AI" at turkey farms, is Hobbesianly nasty, brutish, and short. But when Alward and Turc left Wall Street jobs four years ago to buy an abandoned farm, they did it because they wanted to raise little old ladies, not top-heavy butterballs. And on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving-the busiest traffic day of the year-seven people drove up from Brooklyn to buy Veritas Farms turkeys, then turned right around and drove the 100 miles home.
|A cow and her calf graze freely.|
|What do the animals want to do the most? What are their natural desires, and can I fulfill [their desires] and grow them for food at the same time?|
|The idyllic farmlands of Veritas are home to well-nurtured animals.|
|To have something tasty on the plate, you need to raise the animals really well, with natural food, with plenty of space, with fresh air, with pure water.|
|The end result of a happy life can be served very rare.|