Category: Heritage Turkey

Jive Talkin’ Turkey , Part II

We were having so much fun talking about “turkeys of the 1970s” – a time when real Heritage turkeys were having a tough time fighting against the influx of industrial farming and a trend towards growing everything cheaper and faster, no matter what the ultimate cost — that we thought we’d go back and look at some of favorite TELEVISION TURKEYS of the 1970s!

Our favorites are failed copycat shows, and no one had more losing imitations than the original SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN! Two of our favorites are the shameless copy GEMINI MAN, and the completely unfunny HOLMES AND YOYO about a robot cop named YOYO!!! Don’t remember them?? They were true TURKEYS!!!

Speaking of copycats, who remembers DOG AND CAT, a completely failed cop show starring KIM BASSINGER??

Television shows come and go, but Heritage Turkeys have stood the test of time, simply because they cannot be beat.

The industry does a great job of confusing the market by co-opting buzz words. The word “natural” can mean almost anything. And all of these turkeys have salt water added — they call it flavor enhancers. These are what we call “jive turkeys.” They are simply not the real thing. If you want the true tast of turkey, Heritage is the way to go.

Heritage Turkeys are the genuine item. Not copycats, not cheap imitations, not bionic robots or clones or anything produced in a laboratory like so many commercially farmed birds.

Heritage Turkeys are raised using traditional farming methods from birds with tremendous genetics. There are never any chemicals, and the birds get to roam and roots naturally. All of this goes to make Heritage Turkeys are the very best birds in the world, the most flavorful and juiciest birds on the market today.

Don’t trust us: Alice Waters says “These birds are without a doubt the tastiest birds you can possibly serve,” and Mario Batali, proudly claims “I’ve served these birds for my Thanksgiving every year for the past 12 years and always will.”

Just try calling Alice or Mario “jive” and see what happens!

Jive Turkeys, Part 1

Oh, those wacky 1970s, when it seemed that just everyone was wearing white bellbottoms and dancing to the Hustle. That may have worked if you were eighteen-years-old and could get around on platform shoes, but when it was your uncle Murray trying to act hip, pretending to be younger than he was (by a lot!), we had an expression for him: Jive turkey!

Being a turkey in the 1970s was NOT such a good thing, on the disco floor, or even on the thanksgiving table — By the early 1970s, factory farming had taken over the American poultry farming system, and turkeys were most commonly bred for traits that would deform them and destroy their flavor, namely how fast and how big they could grow. Turkeys were shot up with chemicals to keep them alive, and were so top heavy they could not walk had become the norm. In fact, they were growing so fast that turkeys became so inexpensive as to nearly bankrupt the industry.

Sadly, these kinds of “jive turkeys” – birds that really had no business representing American agriculture, became the norm, and it is still true. Like your desperate uncle trying to do the Hustle at the disco, commercially farmed turkeys cant be trusted.

The people behind this type of farming, growing everything as fast and as cheap as possible, think they can outsmart mother nature, but the there is always a price to pay: sick, inhumanely raised turkeys, and family farms that cant compete with this sort of mass production.

Thankfully, Heritage Turkeys are no jive.

(And after dinner, why not screen the classic comedy, JIVE TURKEY starring PAUL HARRIS?)

But when it comes to dinner, stick to Heritage. You don’t want anyone to call your turkey “jive” at the Thanksgiving table!


A turkey is no better than the farmer behind it.

Long-time Heritage customers know that we got our start selling Frank’s turkeys, raised traditionally and responsibly on his Good Shepherd Farm and our relationship with him remains the cornerstone of our business.

Frank is a true hero of the Heritage food movement — he is the first and only sustainable commercial farmer to receive certification by the American Poultry Association for his birds as purebreds, standards that were set in 1873 — and he has been featured in publications ranging from the New York Times to National Geographic. His story is the Rosetta Stone of sustainable farming, and the reason why when it comes to meat, the word “heritage” is synonymous with “heirloom.” Good Shepherd turkeys are the oldest line of turkey in America, 100 percent antibiotic free, and pasture raised on the Kansas prairie.

“The biggest thing this year,” Frank says, “is that we’ve added two new farms to raise turkeys this year to meet a bigger demand. We never seem to have enough — hopefully this year if everything goes well to have twice as many turkeys as last year. But it’s still a drop in the bucket — our four farmers are going to raise what one big commercial plant will do in a week.

“But here are more and more people who want our birds — Some people who have had Heritage birds have tried to find something else, but they always come back.”

And it’s true, once you have experience the true taste of a Heritage bird, one that hasn’t been juiced with salt water and flavor enhancers, one that has been raised naturally and allowed to roost and roam and mate naturally, you will never look at another supermarket bird the same way.

Heritage turkeys are available now for Thanksgiving delivery. Isn’t it time you became part of this great tradition?

Let the Hatching Begin!

It is the time of year again when new life begins on the farm!
(click on the image below to start the video)

These are the breeders that will continue on the purebred heritage lineages at Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch in Lindsborg, Kansas.

Every November since our first year we have had the great honor of announcing the arrival of a new generation of Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch heritage turkeys. Farmer Frank Reese was the first farmer in the US allowed to claim “heritage” on his USDA certificate thanks to the American Poultry Association, a certification group that confirms standards traceable back to the 19th century.

Stay tuned for more updates and videos from the farm throughout the year!

The Perfect Roast for You and Yours

This Holiday Season, Go Big with a Classic Heritage Centerpiece!porchetta

The biggest occasions deserve the best meats in America. Like all of our meats, our centerpieces are raised humanely, on pasture without antibiotics or hormones, and produce the best natural flavor and texture you have ever experienced. These are not your grandma’s pot roast — our beef ribeye, rack of lamb, tenderloin, porchetta, and cured hams are the best of their kind, easy to cook, and sensational to serve for family dinner or the most elegant holidays. And did we mention the leftovers?

Know Your Roasts!

Some meats just seem more festive than others, but you can always count on pleasing the crowd with a Heritage roast or centerpiece. We find beef tenderloin, aka filet mignon, to be perfect for elegant dinner parties. Pork tenderloin, too, is an exquisite focal point for any occasion. Our custom made, hand-rolled porchetta, is a rare treat — crispy and rich and an impressive showstopper for even the meat connoisseur. Leg of lamb, and the celebrated rack of lamb, are perhaps the most festive centerpieces of them all, fit for a royal banquet! Of course cured hams and whole chickens never fail to please, whether it’s a holiday, Sunday dinner, or just a weeknight treat. The best part is that they are all easy to prepare — and spectacular to present!

Prepare Simply for Spectacular Results

A ten pound leg of lamb may seem like a challenge next to a 14 oz. pork chop, but we are here to tell you, don’t worry! Here is the best advice from the Heritage Team and our network of chefs:

There is no wrong way to cook great meat, but we recommend keeping it simple. Just use salt and pepper and your favorite herbs as primary seasoning. We love beef with just salt and pepper, but lamb also loves rosemary and thyme. Pork, too, loves a creative touch, but remember: this is the very best heritage meat in the world, and the flavor is already there, a product of the best breeds, farmed traditionally. There is nothing to hide, the taste says it all.

Click here to shop our selection

Heritage Turkeys : From Farm to Ark to Table

In every family, there is a pride of history and lineage. This is no different for poultry or livestock. Heritage turkeys are the progeny of poultry that was bred for flavor.

Norman Kardosh, Frank Reese’s mentor, spent his life teaching Frank how to raise heritage turkeys responsibly. He knew he was leaving his legacy to Frank, and he stressed the importance of pure genetics. Norman said, “If you mess them up it will take fifteen years to straighten out… if it’s even possible.”

The Standard Bronze is the perfect heritage turkey — flavorful, healthy, and robust — and represents not just a line of genetics, but the farmer’s love and care in breeding the best heritage turkeys in the world.

By the early 1970s, factory farming would take over, and turkeys were most commonly bred for traits that would genetically deform them and destroy their flavor, namely how fast and how big they could grow. Within twenty years, turkeys shot up with chemicals to keep them alive and so top heavy they could not walk were the norm. In fact, they were growing so fast that turkeys became so inexpensive as to nearly bankrupt the industry.

The American Poultry Association is America’s oldest agricultural association and the keeper of the standards for poultry breed identification. Frank is the first farmer to receive accreditation by the APA certifying his heritage turkeys as purebred to the standards set in 1873.

Patrick Martins, Founder of Heritage Foods USA explains, “In 2001, when I was running Slow Food USA, I put the Standard Bronze turkey on the Slow Food “Ark of Taste” — a metaphoric vessel designed to highlight agriculture on the verge of extinction — and suddenly I found myself in the turkey business, launching Heritage Foods USA to help Frank expand and successfully deliver his flock of heritage turkeys, now numbering around 10,000 birds per year.

Frank’s birds are not only a model of responsible farming but also delicious. They bring a character of flavor and juiciness that could never be found in anything produced by Big Agriculture. They do cost more, but the price reflects the true cost of raising a free-range bird that has not been genetically redesigned to flatter the bottom line rather than the taste buds.

Modern, industrially raised adult turkey’s breasts are so unnaturally large that they cannot reproduce without assistance, and need to be artificially inseminated, which is why cheap turkey meat is available in the supermarket all year long. Frank’s turkeys mate naturally and are only ready to be harvested for Thanksgiving.

Frank Reese’s heritage turkeys are now available for pre-order for Thanksgiving directly from Heritage Foods USA, including the Standard Bronze as well as Bourbon Red, White Holland, Black Narragansett, Royal Palm, Jersey Buff, and Slate breeds.

2016 Heritage Turkeys
Delivered fresh November 22nd with neck and giblets
8-10lb turkey … $99
10-12lb turkey … $119
12-14lb turkey … $139
14-16lb turkey … $159
16-18lb turkey … $179
18-20lb turkey … $199

2015 Heritage Turkey Flock

Every morning it’s the same routine for poultry farmer Frank Reese. Frank walks several thousand turkeys from their barn out to pasture, where they spend the day foraging in the rolling Kansas plains. In the evening he opens the large barn doors, cuing the flock to head indoors where they can roost safely for the night.

Exercise and access to natural forage help to keep heritage turkeys strong and healthy. It also enables the birds to develop fat, nutritional content, and flavor. Not too long ago this was how all turkeys were raised, but Frank has gone to great lengths to preserve traditional standards of raising turkeys. Each year, as his flock is developing, he closely watches the birds mature. At the end of the season Frank will select the individuals with the most desirable traits to parent the next generation.

This yearly cycle drives the sustainability of Frank’s operation. All of his turkeys mate naturally, have a long and productive lifespan, and develop at a healthy rate – simple traits that really allow his flock to stand out from commodity production.

Follow our blog for more 2015 heritage turkey updates!




Heritage Turkey Photos from Judy

We LOVE when our friends share their culinary adventures with us. Here are some great photos of an innovative way to cook-up the traditional American Thanksgiving centerpiece.

Dr. Judith Mazza is a long time supporter and wonderful photographer. She is President of the DC Chapter of La Chaîne des Rotisseurs, the world’s oldest and largest international food and wine society. 

Send us your photos, recipes, and stories and we’ll feature them here at our Community Table, the place where we gather to share our thoughts and ideas and everything we learn from you!

Thanks Judy for these wonderful Heritage Turkey photos!


Mazza Heritage Turkey (1 of 11) Mazza Heritage Turkey (4 of 11)Mazza Heritage Turkey (10 of 11)


Thanksgiving Turkey Mistakes

6 Common Thanksgiving Turkey Mistakes

Thanksgiving! There’s no other meal so rewarding yet so anxiety ridden then this once yearly feast. Your heritage turkey is going to be the star of Thanksgiving dinner. Protect your investment and your reputation this year by avoiding these 6 Common Thanksgiving Turkey mistakes!

Heritage Turkey Project

A Closer Look: The Heritage Turkey Project

…year after year it is the Heritage Turkey Project that remains our most important intervention into the American food supply. For one, Frank Reese and his turkeys truly are one of a kind — no one breeds poultry better than Frank who stays true to 19th century Poultry Standards of Perfection.

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