Tag: Frank Reese


Why a Duck? Ask Dickens!

The best thing about the holidays is always the food, that is, if you are doing it right! As we say here, let nature lead the way — great food is seasonal and should be celebrated in its own time. Look no farther than the books of Charles Dickens and ask why they always seemed to be eating geese at Christmas? Because that is when naturally mating geese and ducks are ready for harvest. It is nature’s way of writing a menu.

Our Aylesbury ducks, by the way, are the most incredible birds ever to make it all the way from London to your table! And their story is one of the best you will hear at the table.

The Aylesbury duck reached its peak popularity in the late 1800s when thousands of ducklings were sent from the town of Aylesbury to London and served by the top restaurants of the day.

Since then, the Aylesbury was crossed with other breeds like the Pekin, which fared better in industrial settings. If it were not for a few dedicated farmers who kept it pure, it is likely the breed would have disappeared for good. The Aylesbury Duck is listed on the Most Endangered List with fewer than 500 breeding birds left in the U.S. We’re proud to be offering these ducks this season — and no matter what you have heard, they are simple to prepare, not much different than roasting a chicken, and they are sure to make you a superstar in the kitchen!

The Aylesbury boasts a bouncy texture and rich, creamy fat. Its robust flavor with nutty and herbaceous notes make this the most flavorful duck on the market today. These ducks are raised outdoors on ponds and pasture with no hormones or antibiotics.

Americans consume less than 1/3 lb. of duck per year but we hope to restore the bird’s presence on the farm and at your dinner table.

Still need convincing? Here’s our recipe for a simple whole roast duck. If you love duck, and want a truly spectacular bird beyond what is even available in restaurants, you can’t possibly go wrong!

Click here for a simple duck recipe.

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!

FRANK REESE, AMERICA HERO

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?

The Ultimate Certification for Heritage Poultry

Certification by the American Poultry Association (APA) is the ultimate seal of approval for humane poultry production. The APA is America’s oldest agricultural association. Its certifications are endorsed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and it signifies that the animals are raised with balanced genetics, not genetics overbred for fast growth. Heritage chickens take 150 days to grow to market weight as opposed to 48 days on commodity farms. We applaud all producers including Frank Reese who have been endorsed by the APA.

Frank hold a certificate from the APA for each breed he raises. Here are the certificates for each of the 3 breeds we have available this week:

Whole Chickens
Two 3-4lb chicken $69
Two 3-4lb chicken $137
Barred Plymouth Rock or Cornish

Whole Chicken
Breed Tasting Kit $115
One 3-4lb chicken each from:
New Hampshire, Cornish and Barred Plymouth Rock

Ground Chicken
Three 1lb packs $55
Ten 1lb packs $175
Barred Plymouth Rock

Frank Reese

The Frank Reese Story

At Heritage Foods USA, Frank Reese is a super hero. His farming practices should be a model for anyone who cares about taste and the survival and success of true heritage breeds. We started our business because we believed in Frank, and his heritage turkeys have really sustained us. It is nearly impossible to compete with his birds…

Freyja & Susan's Heritage Turkey

2015 Heritage Turkey Photo Contest

A huge “Thank You” to all participants for sharing your holiday feast with us!

We are thrilled to announce the winner of our 2015 Heritage Turkey Photo Contest!

Each family submitted photos of their Heritage Thanksgiving Turkey for a chance to win an 18-20lb Heritage Turkey for Thanksgiving 2016. Our inbox was flooded with your submissions, here are the best of the best:

2015 Turkey Photo Contest Winner:

Freyja & Susan

South Berwick, ME

Freyja & Susan's Heritage Turkey
Freyja & Susan’s Heritage Turkey

 

Honorable Mentions:

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To all of you who support the Heritage Turkey Project, you have truly made this project a success. Thank You!

It would not be possible without your support and enthusiasm over the years.

What Separates Heritage Chickens From the Rest of the Pack?

What really separates Heritage Breeds of chicken from the rest of the pack, and why is it so important to help preserve breed diversity?

Barred Rock Hen.
Barred Rock Hen.

What is most remarkable about the chicken is that every one of the approximately 12 billion that populate the planet earth are all descended from the Red junglefowl (gallus gallus) of southern Asia.

Of course, counting how many chickens exist is no easy task considering that chicken just surpassed beef as the most eaten meat in the United States. Chickens also live in backyards and rooftops in every country in the world — they only need a small space to provide us with eggs and meat. Sadly many varieties of chicken are on the endangered species list. This cultural loss began in the 1950s but sped up in the 1970s.

Frank Reese and Good Shepherd Ranch are part of an underground movement to preserve old genetics. Today Good Shepherd with Heritage Foods USA is the only company selling 100% USDA inspected factory farm free chicken meat. This means no genetic meddling took place other than preservation of what real chickens once were. No one knows what real chickens are like better than Frank who has been in the business for over 50 years, since he was a little boy. He knows the taste and composition of every chicken that ever walked on American soil. His farm is a museum of the past and if good sense prevails, also the future! Of course no antibiotics are needed on Good Shepherd Ranch because the animals are strong and capable of reproducing on their own. These are chickens with 10,000 year histories.

In an effort promote heritage chickens, Heritage Foods USA is starting to sell ground chicken. This ground can be purchased as part of our livestock variety packs and soon by itself. The delicious ground meat is available in one-pound bags and consists only of heritage birds. Our goal is to increase the market for heritage breeds of chicken, allowing Frank and neighboring farms room to increase various breed populations.

Our whole chicken program continues each season with a rotation of all the breeds that Frank dutifully raises on his ranch. In 2014 the Rhode Island White, Leghorn, Minorca, and White Cornish will have been celebrated on dinner tables around the country. I asked Frank what the differences were between them and he answered, “It’s as big a difference as a Great Dane and a Chihuahua!”  We are proud to feature each breed by itself every 3 months as well as breed variety packs that allow you to compare and contrast the flavors and shape of the birds. For a full list of breeds we will feature over the coming months see below. Together we hope to turn the tide against monoculture in the American poultry industry.

Working to change the way Americans eat chicken is no easy task. The industry is dominated by a single variety of chicken that got its start in the 1950s but really became a central actor on the American stage in the 1970s when the folks at Tyson met with the folks at McDonalds to develop the Chicken McNugget. The nugget provided Tyson with a stable and consistent market while also relieving them of the pressures of the fresh poultry market — nuggets could be frozen. Fresh chickens as a dominant part of the industry now became a thing of the past. The nugget created the need for the development of a new industrial hybrid chicken broiler that made the most amount of meat using the least amount of feed. Another goal was that the birds produce almost exclusively white meat even though nature does not do that on its own.

The industry scoured flocks for abnormal candidates to breed together to develop the characteristics they desired, even though it has ultimately been unhealthy for the species. When the industry came across one of nature’s mistakes — say, a chicken so top-heavy with meat that it could barely walk—they pulled it from the flock, not to kill it in an effort to protect the group from bad genes, but to ensure that its abnormal genetics became part of the next year’s harvest. The misfits were cataloged and combined — corporate farms now consist of entire populations who’s skeletal, cardiovascular, and immune systems can’t keep up with their genetic engineering. Long before they got to the crowded feeding ops, these animals were doomed to a life of pain with a potpourri of scurrilous genetics. But boy, do they grow fast! A five-pound chicken has gone from taking 16 weeks to only six weeks to fully grow, but many are on the verge of collapse when they arrive on the kill floor. These are dead end animals.

Thankfully farmers like Frank resisted the trend. His farm consists of dozens of breeds neatly divided in pens. Frank works to improve each genetic line that he has acquired over the past decades. Each breed tastes different but they all boast more dark meat than industrial cousins. They also look like a chicken with thinner breast lines, and a strong build.

The flavor of the meat is intense and the fibers in the meat are very strong and difficult to break down. Heritage chickens must be cooked very low and very slow. Without this technique the birds will be tough. Moisture must also a part of cooking process or else they dry out over the long cooking time.

The breeds Frank raises include Columbian Wyandotte, Rhode Island Whites, Black Leghorns, Golden Penciled Hamburg, Dark Brahma, Silver Laced Wyandotte, White Laced Red Cornish, Dark Cornish, White Cornish, White Jersey Giants, Black Jersey Giants, White Leghorns, Buff Leghorns, Blue Andalusian, Barred Plymouth Rock, Ancona, Light Brown Leghorn, Dark Brown Leghorn, Silber Leghorn, Black Minorca, White Face Black Spanish, Silver Penciled Hamburg, Plymouth Rocks and New Hampshires among many more. We hope you will try each one and help us lay the path for a return of taste and dignity for our animals.

Hen standing in the sunshine at Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch.
Hen standing in the sunshine at Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch.
Jersey Giant from Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch.
Jersey Giant from Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch.
Columbian Wyndotte from Good Shepard Poultry Ranch.
Columbian Wyndotte from Good Shepard Poultry Ranch.
Barred Rock Hen on Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch.
Barred Rock Hen on Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch.
Hens forge together at Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch.
Hens forge together at Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch.

Rare Breed Heritage Chicken Tour

Good Shepherd Chicken

Last summer we launched our Rare Breed Heritage Chicken Tour – an effort to revive 24 rare, heritage chicken lines and create an alternative market for non-industrially bred chicken.  We partnered with Frank Reese, the country’s preeminent poultry farmer, to show our customers what real chicken tastes like.

Heritage Foods USA is now offering a rotation of 24 heritage chicken varieties every 3-4 months.  Numerous heritage breeds of chicken are on the brink of extinction and we must create a market for them by eating them. Heritage Foods USA is the only place you can taste these special heritage birds today.

Heritage chickens are breeds that have been around since before the industrial era.  Their genetic lineage has been preserved from genetic modification.  Heritage birds grow at a healthy rate, while industry chickens are genetically manipulated to grow at an unnaturally fast rate that is harmful to the skeletal, cardiovascular, and immune systems of the bird.  Industrial chickens are bred as dead end animals that cannot reproduce or survive on their own.

Mr. Reese explains, “It is not the antibiotics. It is not the hormones. It is not the feed. It is the genetically engineered animal” that makes the difference in the poultry industry.  If we focus on animal welfare while ignoring the genetics of these birds, we are not changing a thing. 

Mr. Reese’s poultry not only look and taste different from commodity poultry; his birds have double the protein and half the fat.  He told us, “The skinnier the bird, the longer the leg, the darker the meat, the higher the nutrition. The bigger and fatter and plumper it is, the more worthless the meat is.”

Conventional Chicken vs Heritage Chicken Nutrition Facts
Conventional Chicken vs Heritage Chicken Nutrition Facts

So far we have offered Colombian Wyandotte and Rhode Island White. Next up is the White Leghorn coming in early spring. After that we have many more varieties including New Hampshire, Silver Penciled Plymouth Rocks, Dark Brahmas, Black Jersey Giants, Golden Penciled Hamburg, and many more!

Frank Reese on Heritage Turkeys

HeritageTurkeys_Secondary

Our very own Frank Reese was profiled in Modern Midwest as a farmer who “wants to change the way you think about your Thanksgiving Meal Centerpiece.” 

WHAT IS A HERITAGE TURKEY?

  • Long life outdoors:  Heritage turkeys should be active and healthy: running, jumping, flying and exploring, all in the great outdoors. Farm factory raised birds are confined to buildings, and are too overweight to fly.
  • Naturally mating:  Forget artificial insemination. There better be no needles involved when it comes to making little baby heritage turkeys — also known as poults. Broad-breasted white turkeys have been genetically engineered to the point they can no longer naturally mate.
  • Slow growth rate: Factory farms can raise a 20-pound turkey in 12 weeks. It should take at least twice as long (28 weeks) for a heritage turkey, giving them time to develop a strong skeletal structure and healthy organs.
  • Meat: Expect a heritage bird’s meat to be darker thanks to all that running, jumping and exercising on the farm. The darker the meat, the more nutritional, said Reese. “If you’ve got muscle that’s been used, you have the ability to store vitamins. You don’t store vitamins in fat.”
  • Heritage varieties: Black, Bronze, Narragansett, White Holland, Slate, Bourbon Red, Beltsville Small White, Royal Palm, Jersey Buff and White Midget.
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