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Thankful for a Turkey's Life


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A fully grown broad breasted bronze turkey.My dear friends, Lori and Michael, decided to raise a turkey for Thanksgiving this year. They have raised chickens for the last few years and have a large backyard. Although I'm pretty sure they will never raise a turkey again, the last 8 months have been quite an adventure.

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They purchased the turkey chick from Wilco in March, for $16. He was a Broad Breasted Bronze, rather than the typical Broad Breasted White that are in grocery stores this time of year. Both types have been bred from the smaller wild turkeys to have more breast meat, but are generally unable to breed without human assistance.

A small fluffy turkey chick.

 

Turkey farmers can also choose heritage birds, like the Narraganset and Norfolk Black. These breeds retain characteristics of historic turkeys that have been bred out of the domestic broad breast varieties, especially the ability to be fertile without intervention. Because of this, they are generally grown free range on smaller family farms and are highly prized. They are reported to be richer in flavor, but have a higher proportion of lean dark meat because of the smaller breast size.

A small turkey chick.

 

Lori and Michael tried not to name him, but it is hard to care for a baby creature for months without some affection creeping in. Many people called him Mr. Gobbles or Mr. Turkey, but Lori settled on Turkey Pie. She was usually home during the day so she became the mama. As he got older, he would watch her from the back step and keep her company when she was in the backyard. He had so much personality. When she would laugh, he would erupt in laughing gobbles and his snood would get long and luxurious. He grew into a beautiful bird, with all sorts of iridescent colors when in the sunlight.

A young turkey on the grass.

 

As the fall approached, Lori became increasingly aware of the fact that her Turkey Pie would not be around much longer. Many friends online would beg her to let him live, offering to buy her another turkey. She decided to have a big Thanksgiving dinner and invited all her family and many close friends, including me. Each guest is bringing a couple of sides so there will be plenty of food for all. She is planning on serving ham and prime rib too, as she doesn't expect to be able to eat a bite of Turkey Pie. The rest of her family will have no problem and most of us are looking forward to appreciating every bit of the turkey.

A young turkey on the grass.

 

Living with a turkey is not all rainbows and sunshine. Like most birds, they poop a lot; on the back steps, all over the patio, and in the grass. He also became more aggressive and would bite the other family members if they came too close. Although we loved his gobble, it could be irritating to close neighbors or in a small space. He required several bags of feed during his lifespan and, at one point, he needed medication too. Lori would feed him turkey treats as well. All in all, it probably cost around $200 to raise him for Thanksgiving.

A turkey looking in a window, from outside.

 

The Monday before Thanksgiving was butchering day. Although turkeys can live for 10 or more years, the meat is best after about 8 months. Lori found a farm that would butcher, defeather and clean a turkey carcass for only $20. Turkey Pie had to be locked in a dog cage for 24 hours to ensure he did not eat anything more. A friend and I accompanied her on the trip for moral support. She did great until Turkey Pie was unceremoniously hauled out of the cage and taken out back. The busy turkey butchers didn't really understand that she wanted a moment to say goodbye so it was more abrupt than we would have liked, but we got through it. A few hours later, we went back to pick him up. A little surreal to see a plastic wrapped package in place of the lively and majestic bird we had dropped off.

Turkey Pie was well grown indeed, a testament to the care he received over his life. He weighed 40 pounds, twice as big as the usual turkeys found at supermarkets. They do not have a pan big enough for him so we will be improvising with aluminum foil and baking sheets. We are all honored to be invited to share in this special meal. After all, every turkey starts as a little chick. His life was long and happy for a meat turkey, much better than the life on a factory farm.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A close up of a full grown turkey with a red snood and blue head.
 
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November 21, 20180 found this helpful

Awwww! This is very cute and I loved reading it! Have fun celebrating Thanksgiving you guys! Miss u all and love you!

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November 21, 20180 found this helpful

Awww.Turkey Pie. Happy Thanksgiving.

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November 7, 20190 found this helpful

I loved your story about Turkey Pie. I would not have been able to eat a bite of this sweet turkey. MaMa must have missed him very much after Thanksgiving. Have a Happy Thanksgiving !

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Silver Post Medal for All Time! 267 Posts
November 8, 20190 found this helpful

It was sad at the butchering but it would have been even sadder if no one was able to enjoy his deliciousness. Our dinner was in honor of his life.

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She did miss him and will never raise animals for meat again. She even got rid of her chickens. We will be thinking about him this year for sure.

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Anonymous
November 22, 20180 found this helpful

Well written story. I loved it. As a friend and nieghbor to Lori and Mike we have watched this saga unfold over the months. Such a typical thing for Lori as we know her well and said she would grow attached. After all, she raised baby squirrels that had fallen out of her trees. We knew the day would one day come for the inevitable meal preparation and she would struggle with the process. Yesterday while shopping at our local Fred Meyer we ran into Lori sprinting up and down the aisles gathering last minute groceries. We chatted for a bit and of course the topic of Turkey Pie came up. She started to tell of the trip to the butcher but couldnt quite get through the story for being overcome with emotion. I think that speaks to what a sweet soul she really is. As for me...thanks for the invite Lori, we cant wait to drop in later tonight for a slice of pie and save me a little slice of breast meat for a sandwich.

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November 25, 20180 found this helpful

Thank you so much for sharing that lovely story Jess. It's sad but beautiful too. I couldn't have eaten him either but it is comforting to know he enjoyed life.

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Diamond Post Medal for All Time! 1,246 Posts
November 26, 20180 found this helpful

I read this story to my family and friends and everyone got all teary-eyed! Thanks for sharing! What a story.

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November 26, 20181 found this helpful

Hi Jess, What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it!!

Stories like yours make me really think hard about the rule I have which is to never meet the food I eat. Never will I order a lobster from Red Lobster for example, and I cannot do the farm to table open houses where you meet the animal at the beginning of the season.

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Your story reminds me that I would like to be more of a vegetarian...but then I feel bad killing plants to eat them too...I love my plants but then that doesn't leave much to eat.

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December 1, 20190 found this helpful

My husbands cousin raised a dozen turkeys on her ten acres out in the countryside. She utilized the kennels left behind by the previous owners which kept them away from the ponds on her land. Her birds averaged 40-45 pounds by November 20. She did her own butchering on two birds and sold the others to a friend for his restaurant. Since the birds were so large, she bought a brand new blade for her jig saw and her sister sterilized it at the hospital she worked at. They cut that bird in half to fit in a large electric roaster.

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We had one half bird on Thanksgiving and the other half at Christmas. She did the same to the other bird and froze the two halves for later use that winter. That was the best tasting turkey Ive ever had. It still amazes me that a turkey can weigh almost 50 pounds and yet be so tender and juicy when harvested and roasted. I assumed the muscle needed to support that much weight would give the bird a tougher texture, but somehow it didnt.

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