Thanksgiving is a time for celebrating the harvest and giving thanks with friends and family for the food that sustains and nourishes us. This year I challenge you to choose at least one new way to “green” your Thanksgiving. Think of reducing your “foodprint” as a way of giving thanks to Mother Earth. Bonus Feature: A Guide to Buying Local and Sustainable Turkeys.
#1 Source locally grown foods and eat with the seasons. When we choose local, we know our “food miles” are low and our food is farm-fresh and delicious. Choosing locally-grown, seasonal foods supports family-owned farms, farm stands and farmers’ markets as well as the independent and specialty grocers that carry their products. Keeping food dollars local supports the local economy while investing in the future of a local food shed. Additionally, many locally grown foods are not packaged at all since they are sold loose at farm stands and farmers’ markets, thereby cutting down on waste. Apples, pears, New York chestnuts so delicate they can be eaten raw, winter squash, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, turnips, honey, maple syrup and artisan cheeses are available locally because we actually still have some working family farms. Yes we have turkeys in Connecticut! Please consult the Guide to Buying Local and Sustainable Turkeys below.
#2 Choose organic whenever feasible. Agricultural practices related to growing food are significant contributors to greenhouse gases. “Food miles”, however, are not the main contributors to food chain greenhouse gases, agricultural practices are and animal agriculture is a big percentage of that. Indeed, choosing organic and other sustainably grown and produced foods over conventional is an excellent means to further reduce one’s “foodprint”. Make your holiday meal extra special this season by choosing an organic, free-range or Heritage turkey since it will surely be the most delicious turkey you have ever served. Many farms, specialty grocers, and mail order businesses sell these gourmet turkeys, but please place your order early, expect to pay a price commensurate with the quality you are receiving, and follow the cooking directions specific to your breed for optimal results. Yes we have Heritage, organic and free-range turkeys in Connecticut! Please consult the Guide to Buying Local and Sustainable Turkeys below.
#3 Don’t buy more than you’re going to cook. Stop buying fruits and vegetables in bulk if you frequently find them in your refrigerator or on your counter going bad. We think we’re doing right by our family by saving money from buying in quantity, but throwing out food is just wasteful. To avoid spoiled leftovers, portion and freeze food from your Thanksgiving meal that will not be eaten in the next few days.
#4 Make your own vegetable stock with vegetable trimmings. If you have some vegetables that wind up past their prime despite your best efforts to only buy what you need, use them and any other vegetable ends, peelings and trimmings you’ve accumulated to make homemade vegetable stock. Simply add raw vegetable trimmings to a container as your create them and keep it refrigerated or frozen until you’ve accumulated enough to make a vegetable stock of your own. Vegetable stock is easily prepared in 45 minutes, is more delicious than store bought, and provides you with a great start to a soup, sauce, gravy, braise, rice pilaf or risotto. Celery (stem and leaf), carrots, onions (peel too), leeks, parsley stems, turnips, garlic and mushrooms make great stocks.
#5 Compost your unusable vegetables and fruits. Get yourself a compost pail, line it with a BioBag (fully compostable), and accumulate your raw food waste for use in a composter. Many people have a composter in the backyard, but new composters in the form of small electronic kitchen appliances allow you to compost right in your own home without the use of soil, leaves and worms. The Wall Street Journal did a nice review of home composters recently and the bottom line is it’s never been easier or more convenient to compost at home. Important note: food waste that winds up in landfills is trapped in an anaerobic environment where it is unable to decompose and return nutrients to the soil.
#6 Choose post consumer recycled napkins, paper towels, and aluminum foil and biodegradable kitchen garbage bags. There’s a double bonus to using post consumer recycled products. Recycled content means the waste that would have wound up in our landfills (or incinerated) is now being repurposed into a consumer product. As a bonus, fewer trees need to be cut down and less of our precious natural resources like aluminum are required to make additional product.
#7 Choose glass containers to safely store and reheat leftovers and make ahead foods. By avoiding the purchase of storage containers made from petroleum-based plastics, we achieve the twin goals of safely storing our food and avoiding a product made from a non-renewable resource which requires a lot of energy to refine and when burned, emits CO2, the most prominent greenhouse gas in the Earth’s atmosphere.
#8 Recycle your #5 containers. Unless you live in Nantucket, which is a leader in “zero waste”, you are probably throwing out your #5 plastic containers. Most eco-conscious consumers have already sworn off bottled water, wouldn’t be caught shopping without a reusable bag, and are in the habit of recycling their metal, plastic and glass containers. But #5 containers, which are used to package foods like yogurt, hummus and cottage cheese, are not recycled by many municipalities. Whole Foods Markets collects #5 containers in their stores for recycling under their Gimme 5 program. So save your #5 containers and recycle them at the store instead of letting them end up in a landfill. If you don’t live near a Whole Foods Market, you can ship them directly to the recycling center.
A Guide to Buying Local and Sustainable Turkeys
Thanksgiving is next week and if you haven’t already ordered your turkey, hurry up or you won’t get your first choice! There are many excellent choices of all natural, free-range, organic, and kosher turkeys available in local stores. If you are looking for the extremely rare locally-grown, organic Heritage Turkeys, they are available for home delivery in limited supply. Choosing Heritage Breeds, which have been passed down from generation to generation because they taste good, helps preserve genetic diversity as well as American culinary traditions. Please note that the most coveted birds sell out fast.
Let’s start with the local and Heritage birds. You can buy local organic or local free-range Heritage or broad breasted white turkeys from two family-owned CT farms through Connecticut Farm Fresh Express for home delivery by Thanksgiving. Turkey orders are not being taken online, so please follow the instructions outlined in this link if you wish to order a turkey. Connecticut Farm Fresh Express (CTFFE), the online retailer of exclusively CT Grown foods, is offering fresh turkeys from Ekonk Hill Farm and frozen turkeys from USDA Certified Organic Old Maid’s Farm for purchase and home delivery. All the turkeys are free-range and are raised without growth stimulants or hormones. They are all pasture-raised which means that the majority of their diet has been grass and bugs, their favorite meal, and they are grain fed as a supplement only.
If CT Farm Fresh Express sells out or you prefer buying your turkey in a local supermarket or specialty grocer, please consult the Buying Guide to Sustainable Turkeys below.
Buying Guide to Sustainable Turkeys
All Natural – Gozzi Guilford White at Wilton Village Market and Walter Stewart’s Market; Plainville at Whole Foods Market, Wilton Village Market, Palmer’s, and Balducci’s; Bell & Evans at Palmer’s, Shaw’s, The Fresh Market, Walter Stewart’s Market and Stop ‘ Shop; Round Hill at Wilton Village Market; and private labels at Trader Joe’s, Shaw’s (Wild Harvest) and The Fresh Market.
All Natural Certified Humane – Murray’s at Mrs. Green’s
All Natural Free-Range - Jaindl Farms at Palmer’s, Whole Foods Market (under their private label), and The Pantry; Willie Bird at Palmer’s exclusively
Free-Range Organic - Whole Foods Market Free-Range Organic Turkey (Eberly Farms); Eberly at Mrs. Green’s, Wilton Village Market, and Balducci’s; and Grateful Harvest (Mary Pitman’s Farm) at Walter Stewart’s Market
All Natural Kosher – Kosher Valley at Whole Foods Market and Mrs. Green’s, and Glatt Kosher at Trader Joe’s
Free-Range Organic Kosher – Wise Organic Pastures at Whole Foods Market and Mrs. Green’s
What Kind of Turkey Do You Want?
Labels can be confusing so I’ve provided you with a description of all the turkeys listed above, organized by category, to help you make your decision. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Gozzi Guilford White Turkey from Gozzi’s Turkey Farms are either raised on their farm in Guilford, CT or on farms in Iowa using their own special breed grown according to their specifications. These turkeys are raised in enormous barns where they can roam while remaining safe from coyotes and wolves. Raised on corn and grain, the turkeys receive no hormones or antibiotics. Fresh turkeys are delivered to the store the weekend before Thanksgiving.
Plainville Farms All Natural Turkey is a fresh, humanely raised, all natural turkey grown on family farms in New Oxford, PA in the heart of Amish country. An exclusive Animal Friendly trademark, endorsed by the USDA, recognizes Plainville Farms’ efforts in the humane treatment of animals. The company is committed to “producing the finest natural food products available, treating people and animals well, living and doing business in a more environmentally sustainable manner, and positively impacting our communities.” Turkeys range from 10-30 pounds.
Bell & Evans turkeys all come from the same farm in Pennsylvania Dutch Country where they are raised without antibiotics or hormones and are “fed a diet that consists of corn, soy, vitamins and minerals, never any animal by-products” according to the company web site. Now this is a revelation: the web site also states that “the same producer of Bell & Evans turkeys has been the White House choice for holiday dinners for more than 30 years. Our turkeys are all-natural and bred to grow slower, produce an extremely broad breast (up to 20% more breast meat) with a moist, tender and flavorful taste.” I figured it had to be Jaindl Farms growing their turkeys and my research confirmed it!
Round Hill All Natural Fresh Young Turkey is available year round at the market and is a product of Pilgrim’s Pride, one of the largest poultry companies in the US and Mexico.
All Natural Certified Humane:
Murray’s All Natural Turkeys are “raised in the idyllic Blue Mountains in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster countryside with plenty of fresh air and room to spread their wings” according to the company web site. Murray’s 100% natural turkeys are Certified Humane raised and handled, never receive growth hormones or antibiotics, and are free of preservatives or other artificial ingredients. Turkeys range in size from 10 to 32 pounds.
All Natural Free-Range:
If you’d like to eat turkey from the same farm that’s supplied the White House for over 40 years, opt for a one bred selectively by Jaindl Farms, a family owned and operated business located in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. Jaindl turkeys have been selected by the National Turkey Federation to supply the turkey that graces the holiday table at the White house each Thanksgiving.” Jaindl’s “Blue Ribbon” all natural, free range turkey is raised in a specially designed area of their farm without the use of antibiotics and animal by-products. Choose from 8-30 pounds.
Fresh, free-range turkeys from Willie Bird Turkeys in Sonoma, CA are famous for their superior quality and taste. If the name rings a bell, it’s probably because you’ve seen their smoked poultry products featured in Williams-Sonoma catalogs.
Whole Foods Market Free-Range Organic Turkey is raised in Pennsylvania by Eberly Farms. Eberly Free-Range Organic Turkeys are U.S.D.A. inspected and certified organically grown by the Northeast Organic Farmers Association and Pennsylvania Certified Organic. These free-range turkeys are raised on small Amish and Mennonite family farms in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country without the use of growth stimulants, antibiotics or animal by products in their organic feed. The result is a tender turkey with more abundant flavor and greater meatiness. Sizes range from 8 to 30 pounds.
Eberly Free-Range Organic Turkeys are U.S.D.A. inspected and certified organically grown by the Northeast Organic Farmers Association and Pennsylvania Certified Organic. These free-range turkeys are raised on small Amish and Mennonite family farms in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country without the use of growth stimulants, antibiotics or animal by products in their organic feed. Sizes range from 8 to 28 pounds.
Grateful Harvest USDA Certified Organic Free-Range turkeys can be ordered in all three sizes - 8-12, 12-16, and 16-20 pounds. According to Alex Stewart, these turkeys are grown on third generation family-owned Mary Pitman’s Free-Range Organic Turkey ranch in sunny California and are fed a certified organic high protein diet complete with the finest grains and vegetable proteins. You won't find any antibiotics, animal by-products, preservatives or hormones in a Mary's Free-Range Organic Turkey.
All Natural Kosher
Kosher Valley is an all natural, antibiotic-free, humanely raised turkey that is available between 10 and 20 pounds. According to a recent press release, “Unlike conventionally raised kosher poultry, they are fed a diet of pure corn and soybeans that is free of animal by-products. The chickens and turkeys are humanely raised with room to roam and ready access to vegetarian feed and fresh water at all times. All Kosher Valley products are certified by Rabbi Yechiel Babad and the Orthodox Union and produced in Plainville, New York.”
Free-Range Organic Kosher
Wise Organic Pastures Free-Range, Organic, Kosher Turkeys are double certified – Certified Kosher and USDA Certified Organic! Former homemaker Rachel Wiesenfeld became an entrepreneur in 1992 when she founded Wise Organic Pastures. These birds are raised at Greenwood Farm in Lancaster County, PA and processed in a kosher facility. Turkeys range in size from 10 to 18 pounds.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!