Heritage turkey, photo from ALBC

Turkey mania is upon us here at the Chefs Collaborative headquarters. All four staff members’ “eagles” landed yesterday from Brambly Farm in Norfolk, MA. Grant Kessler, one of our newest members from Chicago, wrote a blog post about the real value of a Thanksgiving turkey. Read on, tell us who raised your turkey (plus what you’re doing to prepare it) and have a very happy Thanksgiving tomorrow!

So I’m in sticker shock about the buzzword-turkey that I ordered Wednesday at the farmer’s market. ‘Buzzword’, you know, as in: “pasture-raised, organically fed, non-GMO, happy turkey.”

I just need a small bird in the ten pound range and it’s going for $5.25 per pound. I signed up for a turkey that is going to cost over $50. Yikes! It made me wonder what a turkey with fewer buzzwords goes for these days. Turns out I could get a twenty pound Butterball for $20. Twice as large, less than half the price. So there you go. Those are the simple economics of buzzword-turkey.

Since it’s a number that scares me – the big FIVE-O – maybe I can talk myself down with numbers. I’m going to feed six members of my family with this bird and then each of us will eat leftovers. That means I’m getting at least twelve portions which run around $4 per portion. Already my heart rate is calming. Then of course I can make stock from the carcass, for extra credit.

But really I chose this turkey because I like knowing who raised it – the caring people at Mint Creek Farm. People. Real people raised my bird and are offering it to me to help feed my family. Buying it from them means I’m helping them feed their family. They looked after tom for me all year. I couldn’t insult them with the Butterball price of $10 for their efforts, could I? How could a farmer survive by selling ten pound turkeys for $10? I’m no farmer, but I can see that’s ridiculous. Hmm…I wonder how those big operations make that work…steroids, GMOs, confinement lots?

I also know that Mint Creek farms biodynamically to improve soil quality and because they’d like to reduce the size of the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Let me say that again. This small farm in Illinois is making farming decisions with the health of the Gulf of Mexico in mind. I’m starting to feel like I should offer them $100 for that $50 turkey. I think maybe I’m getting a good deal!

As for the $22 black Angus T-bone my wife and I split for dinner that night, well, I think that was just a splurge!

Grant Kessler is a food photographer in Chicago, obsessed with eating well, cooking with fresh, whole foods and shrinking the distance his food travels.  He’s at farmer’s markets multiple times a week and loves that he knows who grew his kale and who raised his pork chop.  Grant is sharing a large urban garden (complete with chickens!) and learning to grow food – but finding the relationships he’s growing to be equally as important.  Check out the rest of his food blog here.