Where to find the best heritage breed turkeys in Toronto

Where to find the best heritage breed turkeys in Toronto

(Image: John Cullen)
 

We’re a city obsessed with eating local, and when it comes to planning the biggest dinner of the year, we’re even more devoted. The ubiquitous Butterball, with its yellow and blue shrink wrap, used to provide a comforting barrier between us and the realization that our bird was once, in fact, a bird—with feathers, a beak and a snood (the floppy nose appendage of unknown use). Nowadays, that packaging evokes images of factory farm torture. So we’ll happily pay premium prices to know our turkey was raised in a pesticide-free pasture within a couple hundred kilometres of the city, where it munched organic feed and cavorted with other dignified turkeys. If it happens to descend from a 50-year-old Saskatchewan-born flock and come with certified ancestry papers, Yahtzee! We’ll pay even more. And it’s worth it. Heritage breeds like the Bourbon Red and the Bronze have darker meat (the Broad-Breasted Whites in grocery stores have been genetically modified for Dolly Parton–like proportions) and fuller flavour. All of which means when you’re lying on the couch in a tryptophan-induced torpor, the only thing you’ll feel guilty about is that second helping of stuffing.

KNOW YOUR BIRD

Broad-Breasted White
The most common breed found in grocery stores. Bred specifically to yield lots of breast meat
FEATURED MARKET:

Close to the Bone
Sausage Partners

Bronze
One of the oldest domesticated breeds in North America. It has finely textured, slightly red meat
FEATURED MARKETS:

Country Meadows Organics
Fresh From the Farm
The Village Butcher
Sanagan’s Meat Locker
Beretta Farms Organic Meats

Bourbon Red
A rare Kentucky heritage breed popular for its naturally large breasts and rich flavour
FEATURED MARKETS:

Fresh From the Farm

Country Meadows Organics (Image: Sean J. Sprague)
 

Country Meadows Organics
info@countrymeadowsorganics.com
This Queensville farm is an Ontario paradise with flower and veggie gardens so pretty they’ve been featured on HGTV. The owner, Linda Kapeleris, raises the rare Ridley Bronze—a breed descending from a flock of mid-century Saskatch­ewan turkeys—and each organic bird comes with a certificate to prove its provenance. Only 29 birds are still available, so contact her now to secure one (or a spot on the waiting list). $10 per pound. Order by email or at Kapeleris’s Dufferin Grove Farmers’ Market booth on Thursdays.

Bronze
One of the oldest domesticated breeds in North America. It has finely textured, slightly red meat

Close to the Bone (Image: Sean J. Sprague)
 

Close to the Bone
929 Kingston Rd., 416-699-2663
Owner Mary Milovac visits all her source farms to make sure the birds are ethically raised. Clement Poultry in Newcastle earned her approval. While most commercial operations dip their poultry in a post-mortem preservative to extend shelf life, Clement nixes the practice, so you can be sure your Broad-Breasted White is fresh and chemical-free. $4.86 per pound.

Broad-Breasted White
The most common breed found in grocery stores. Bred specifically to yield lots of breast meat

Fresh From the Farm (Image: Sean J. Sprague)
 

Fresh From the Farm
350 Donlands Ave., 416-422-3276
Husband and wife Tim and Jacqui Schmucker bring in free-range, hormone- and antibiotic-free Bronzes and Bourbon Reds from a cart-and-buggy Amish farm near Wallenstein. $6.25 per pound.

Bronze
One of the oldest domesticated breeds in North America. It has finely textured, slightly red meat

Bourbon Red
A rare Kentucky heritage breed popular for its naturally large breasts and rich flavour

The Village Butcher (Image: Sean J. Sprague)
 

The Village Butcher
2914 Lake Shore Blvd. W., 416-503-9555
Butcher Mark Ali does brisk business in Bronzes. Upon special request, he also brings in Bourbon Reds, Royal Palms (so regal they’re often kept as show birds), Slates (named for their bluish hue) and White Beltsvilles (smaller birds suitable for couples). They come from Blue Haven Farm in Rockwood, a 10-acre operation that’s the antithesis of a factory farm. $6.50 per pound for the Bronze; other breeds up to $8.50 per pound.

Bronze
One of the oldest domesticated breeds in North America. It has finely textured, slightly red meat

Sanagan’s Meat Locker Sanagan’s previous location, just down the street (Image: Sean J. Sprague)
 

Sanagan’s Meat Locker
176 Baldwin St., 416-593-9747
At his Kensington Market shop, Peter Sanagan orders certified organic, free-range heritage Bronze birds from Weber’s Natural Meats, a Mennonite family farm just outside Paisley, on the shores of Lake Huron. $6 per pound.

Bronze
One of the oldest domesticated breeds in North America. It has finely textured, slightly red meat

Sausage Partners (Image: Sean J. Sprague)
 

Sausage Partners
1378 Queen St. E., 416-778-6328
Kyle Demming, former chef at Leslieville’s Irish pub the Ceili Cottage, opened this sausage-centric shop with his wife, Lorraine, in the fall of 2011. Last year, they brought in free-range, hormone- and antibiotic-free heritage turkeys from Grass Roots Organics, a 98-acre farm in Desboro—but coyote attacks decimated the farm’s supply this year. Instead, they’re selling Broad-Breasted Whites (also hormone- and antibiotic-free), which must be ordered by December 19. $5 per pound.

Broad-Breasted White
The most common breed found in grocery stores. Bred specifically to yield lots of breast meat

Beretta Farms Organic Meats (Image: Sean J. Sprague)
 

Beretta Farms Organic Meats
80 Galaxy Blvd., Etobicoke, 416-674-5609
Mike and Cynthia Beretta run a small family farm in King City where they raise Bronze turkeys that are free to roam and forage for grass and bugs. They grow to be around 35 pounds. Birds can be picked up at the couple’s Etobicoke storefront. $4.86 per pound.

Bronze
One of the oldest domesticated breeds in North America. It has finely textured, slightly red meat