It's turkey time! Why pasture-raised turkeys are more expensive (and totally worth it)

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The importance of sustainable, humane farming is especially felt during the holidays. We like to imagine our future food roaming freely and grazing on the foods nature intended them to eat - but unfortunately, this ideal is rarely met.

Factory-farmed animals are now the norm for a reason: it’s much, much cheaper. But the practices within these large operations are, at best, questionable - and, at worst, very disturbing.

what's the difference?

The decision to slow down and preserve humane farming principles is a noble one, especially when you consider how hard it can be to make a living through old-fashioned pasture farming.

Fields needed for grazing require much more space than enclosed barns, and therefore are more expensive. And the special attention paid to rotating birds on pasture requires more labor (more $$$).

The cost of feeding and caring for the birds for the duration of their lives is also substantial. Pasture-raised birds grow naturally, and therefore more slowly, than their factory-raised relatives. A longer lifespan means they actually eat more over the course of their lives, and this cost can easily make up 30% of the ultimate retail price.

In addition to the high prices of non-commercial grain and grit (for digestion), maintaining livable conditions can cost. Babies (called poults) are fragile and often need heat lamps so they do not succumb to cold temps (more $$$).

There are other challenges that come with raising animals in open fields. Coyotes and hawks can easily sneak in and kill off dozens of birds in one night - a huge loss for a small farm. Electric fences help a bit (more $$$), but won’t deter all predators.

And the final huge cost? Processing the birds. Doing this legally is trickier than you might think; the farm’s choice is either taking on the labor-intensive, paperwork-heavy job of doing it themselves (more $$$) or paying out more of its small profit to have them processed by another party (even more $$$).

The good news is that all of these extra steps add up to health and happiness all around - for the bird, for the integrity of the farm and our food system, and for you - who ultimately gets to enjoy the benefits.

what you can do

We know that heading to the local grocery store the day before Thanksgiving and picking out a Butterball turkey at $1.50 a pound is the cheaper route. And not only are pasture-raised birds more expensive, but they require planning.

The good news is we make this process as easy as possible for you! We’re offering two varieties of pasture-raised, free-foraging birds from small Lancaster County farms. Starting now, you can reserve a pasture-raised turkey through us by simply adding a turkey deposit to your regular order.

The active lifestyle and varied diet of our birds means not only superior taste but also peace of mind that your food dollars are supporting small farms and the humane treatment of animals. And who couldn’t use a little more peace of mind around the holidays?!