Posts Tagged ‘free-range’

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Order Your Local Turkey Today!

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

@ South Mountain Creamery

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year, it’s time to pre-order your local turkey! If you read a lot of food magazines (or blogs) to prepare for your Thanksgiving feast, you’ve probably seen a lot of talk about brining the turkey in recent years. Soaking the bird in a saltwater is supposed to add succulence to the meat. But here’s a secret: turkeys are naturally juicy. Conventional turkeys, like conventional chickens and other animals, are raised in confined quarters where they are stuffed full of grain (often genetically-modified, aka GMO) and antibiotics to grow rapidly. Turkeys who eat a natural diet of bugs, grubs and grasses will naturally produce meat that is juicier and more flavorful. And, birds who roam in fresh air lead happier, healthier lives.

What is a Heritage turkey? Today, 99% of all turkeys raised in the U.S. are the “Broadbreasted White” variety, which have been bred specifically to produce unnaturally large breasts. The breasts are so large, in fact, that these turkeys are unable to reproduce naturally! (Source: Sustainable Table/UN Food and Agriculture Organization)

free-ranging @ Fields of Athenry

free-ranging @ Fields of Athenry

Sustainable turkey farmers raise various traditional species of turkeys, Heritage breeds such as Narrangassett or Bourbon Red, to protect the genetic diversity and provide tastier options for your Thanksgiving table. Heritage birds take longer to reach market size — 24 to 30 weeks compared to 18 for supermarket turkeys — which is one reason why they more expensive. (Source: Heritage Turkey Foundation) The article on Sustainable Table has a more detailed explanation of the difference between heritage, organic and sustainable birds and questions to ask your farmers.

Wondering how to find a local, organic, free-range bird for your holiday meal? Here in the DC Metro area, organic turkeys are harder to find, but several local farmers and butchers provide heritage and/or free-range turkeys. Organic birds will be the most expensive, but they are fed only organic feed, not treated with antibiotics or hormones, and required to have access to the outdoors. Ask your farmer or butcher what their free-range turkeys are fed. Organic grain feed is less important if they are truly free-range, as turkeys prefer to eat bugs and grasses anyway. Where “all-natural” is used below, it means turkeys are not treated or fed with any antibiotics, steroids or hormones.

EcoFriendly Foods (Moneta, VA)
type: all-natural, free-range, Heritage and hybrid breeds, 12-20lbs.
price: n/a
order: order at Arlington Courthouse or Dupont Circle markets, $40 deposit required.

Fields of Athenry (Purcellville, VA)
type: all-natural, free-range, Heritage, 15-35lbs.
price: $7.25/lb.
order: download order form online and send $40 deposit; pick-up at farm only; likely to sell out early.

Let’s Meat on the Avenue (Alexandria, VA)
type: Amish-raised from Pennsylvania and Minnesota; organic from Fauquier County VA; all free-range, all-natural, fresh
price: $3.95/lb. for Amish turkeys
order: call 703-836-6328 or stop by the shop; orders will be accepted until about a week prior to Thanksgiving (or until sold out)

MOM’s Organic Market (VA and MD)
type: all-natural, free-range from Maple Lawn Farm (Fulton, MD) and Eberly’s Organic
price: $1.99/lb. Maple Lawn, $3.49/lb. Eberly Organic
order: call or visit store (locations in Alexandria, College Park, Columbia, Frederick and Rockville)

Smith Meadows Farm (Purcellville, VA)
type: all-natural, free-range turkeys, 10-12lbs. or 13-14lbs., frozen
price: $4.25/lb.
order: Place a $10 deposit at their markets, pick-up on Saturday 11/21 or Sunday 11/22 at the market where you place your order. Orders will be accepted until about mid-November. You can also call 877-955-4389 to place your order by phone.
markets: Arlington Courthouse, Del Ray, Falls Church and Chevy Chase on Saturdays; Takoma Park and Dupont Circle on Sundays

South Mountain Creamery / Hillside Farm (Thurmont, MD)
type: free-range, fresh
price: about $2.50/lb.
order: existing South Mountain delivery customers must reserve a turkey by Saturday, November 7; they will be delivered with your regular delivery the week prior to Thanksgiving.

If you don’t want to cook, The Butcher’s Block in Alexandria will have ready-to-go Thanksgiving meals available; visit the website for details.

To find a local, Heritage turkey in your area, search the listings at Local Harvest — or ask your favorite meat vendor at the farmers market!

Shared with Real Food Wednesday — visit the round-up @ Cheeseslave for more Real Food inspiration.

Fresh from the Fields of Athenry

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

If you’ve ever taken a close look at the lamb that floods the grocery stores around this time each year, you might have noticed that it nearly all comes from New Zealand or Australia. Even our neighborhood butcher, who sources most of his meat from here in Virginia, gets his lamb from outside the area.  But looking to create a more sustainable Passover/Easter menu last year (we celebrate both, so Easter dinner is usually leavening-free, though not strictly Kosher), I was thrilled to meet the “lamb lady,” Elaine Boland, at our local organic grocer, MOM’s. We served her leg of lamb last Easter and found it to be the freshest, most tender, and flavorful lamb any of us had ever tasted.

Sadly, MOM’s no longer stocks Elaine’s lamb (they have a largely vegetarian customer base), so on a recent sunny spring day my sister-in-law, the toddler and I hit the road to visit the farm in person. Fields of Athenry, near Middleburg, Va., is just over an hour’s drive from the District. The family farm is nestled in the foot hills of the Bull Run Mountains, and the drive through Virginia’s horse country with freshly blossoming trees and new spring grass just popping up could not be more refreshing.

sheep

Pulling up to the stately country house, a troupe of friendly dogs rushed out to greet us. A voice called from down the hill, beckoning us down to the watering station and chicken coop. Geese chased each other in the pond, while ewes and lambs lazed about in the sun. A chicken sauntered up and lured the toddler to follow him over to see the chickens and (heritage) turkeys nesting. Two llamas and a horse rounded out the menagerie, all looking content as they soaked up the sun on the grassy hillside.

chicken farm virginia

After visiting with the animals, we ventured into the store. A children’s area with chalk and crayons kept the boy entertained while Elaine and her assistant filled me in on the freshly processed, 30-day aged Black Angus beef that had literally just arrived from the butcher. (Cows and additional sheep are pastured at other locations nearby in Virginia and Pennsylvania.) I picked up some NY strip and short ribs, and selected a lamb shoulder from the freezer. They had just sold most of the lamb to one of the local restaurants they supply. (Last summer, we sampled the phenomenal Baa Baa Black Sheep pizza, with Athenry’s lamb sausage, feta, tomatoes, spinach and balsamic glaze, at Fireworks Wood-Fired Pizza in Leesburg – which, incidentally, has an impressive craft beer list as well as locally-sourced pizza toppings.)

puppy As we witnessed, all the animals raised by Fields of Athenry are able to roam and graze freely, grass-fed and well cared for. In fact, their methods met Alice Waters’ exacting standards and Athenry’s lamb was served at Waters’ exclusive Inaugural dinner party earlier this year.

We had arrived near closing time, and Elaine was rushing out to pick up her kids from school, but took a minute to invite the boy inside the house to meet her 14-day-old puppies. He had been pretty excited by the geese and sheep, (singing “We’re going to the sheep farm, the sheep farm…” as he got dressed that morning) but the look of pride and wonder as he gently held a tiny puppy under his arm was truly priceless. (Click here for more photos from our visit.)

Fields of Athenry is open this weekend (Sat. 10am-3pm, closed Sundays), and is accepting orders for Easter weekend until noon next Weds., April 8. (Note that they will be closed Easter Saturday, so all orders will have to be picked up by Friday, April 10.) They deliver to various drop-off points in Loudoun County (see below), and with enough interest, may be able to arrange a drop-off in Northern Virginia – so do sign up for their email list and let them know if you’d be interested. And if you’d like to visit the farm, be sure to check the event schedule for upcoming “Farm to Community Health Outreach” seminars.

Where to Find: Fields of Athenry’s sustainable meat products (lamb/beef/chicken and heritage turkey for Thanksgiving) are delivered by pre-order to locations in Broadlands, Ashburn, Leesburg and Reston, and are available at the farm five days a week (Mon., Tues., Thurs., Fri. and Sat.).

And, their meats are served at Equinox in DC and these Loudoun County, Va., restaurants: Good Stone Inn, Tuscarora Mill, South Street Under, Fireworks, Midas Touch, Bluemont Vineyards, Natural Mercantile of Hamilton, thewinekitchenVintage 50, and American Flatbread.

Lastly, one of my favorite Passover/Easter lamb recipes is “Roasted leg of lamb with Artichokes” from Gourmet. I’ve also made one with a shallot red wine sauce, but can’t find it at the moment.

(Shared with Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday – check out the round-up for great info and ideas from fellow real foodies.)

Local Flavor, Turkey Edition

Friday, November 21st, 2008

If you missed out on pre-ordering your heritage bird, EcoFriendly reports that they will be bringing a limited quantity of turkeys to the Courthouse (Saturday) and Dupont Circle (Sunday) farmers markets, first-come, first-serve.

a Del Ray Farmers Market supperIf you prefer your turkeys still free ranging, bundle up and take a hike at Turkey Run Park off the G.W. Parkway!

Speaking of markets, Fairfax County Markets have closed for the season, except for Mount Vernon which ends Tuesday. Alexandria’s Del Ray and Old Town are going strong, and Dupont Circle is year-round as well. Warm up after your market visit with Andrea’s Roasted Acorn Squash with Apples and Sage.

Get a head start on your Christmas shopping at Mount Vernon, where former White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier is creating a gingerbread replica of George Washington’s home and signing books Saturday and Sunday at 1 and 4pm.

Keep warm and support your local winter markets!