I researched seven turkey farms in Northern California and by far my number one choice for free range, organic turkey in the Bay Area is Barbarosa. They are organic and totally free range, as in they have no pen and they get to roam around in gorgeous grassy fields (see the video to the left here on the blog). The ranch is run by a couple of guys. You can call them up and talk to them about their turkeys, they’ll be straightforward, honest and fun to talk to.
Reasons to go with a Barbarosa Ranchers turkey:
The number one reason and really, the one that says it all, is because compared to every other farm I researched, Barbarosa does not clip or cut its birds in any way at any time during their entire life. If that’s not enough to convince you, here’re some more reasons:
* Taste – No regular supermarket turkey will taste as good, perhaps not even a Diestel.
* Breed – Barbarosa Ranch raises a standard Bronze Turkey. This breed is not commercially viable and so by buying a turkey from Barbarosa you are helping keep an entire breed of turkeys alive and well.
* Local – This bird was raised as close to your backyard as you’re going to get. (Unless you raise turkeys in your backyard, that is.)
* Humanely Processed – Barbarosa harvests and processes their birds by themselves on their ranch.
* Did I mention taste?
* Family Farm – When you buy from Barbarosa you keep a couple of families in business, and support humane treatment of the food you put in your body. Small farms are a dying breed and each one is worthy of being saved and encouraged. The more success folks like Barbarosa have, the more folks like them there will be.
There’s a video that the Modesto Bee did on Diestel’s ranch and you see the owner walking amongst the turkeys. They have room, but they are still in big pens and they are on bare dirt, and when I watched this video, in comparison to the Barbarosa video, I was convinced that Barbarosa turkeys are treated better. I later read an article by Tara Treasurefield on Metroactive.com where she writes, “Diestel Turkey Ranch in Sonora County, whose turkeys are carried by Whole Foods Markets, follows some of the same practices. Defending beak trimming, owner Tim Diestel says that the beaks grow back, but without the lethal hook at the end. He also says it doesn’t hurt. Santa Rosa animal rights attorney Larry Weiss disagrees, however, and notes that “the California Penal Code specifically exempts animals killed for food from protection under cruelty laws.”
I’m not buying that a four-week old chick doesn’t feel it when you cut it’s beak off.
Here’s a short comparison of Barbarosa turkeys to Diestel turkeys:
BR raises one batch of turkeys per year, numbering less than 200. Diestel raises around 250,000.
BR process on farm with family labor about 200 yards from where the birds were raised. Diestel process in a factory.
BR birds are raised outdoors with access to houses if needed. Diestel raises their birds inside with access to outdoor dirt-floor pens.
BR uses high quality organic feed to supplement pasture. Diestel uses lesser quality organic feed with no pasture component.
Further notes on organic and free range turkeys: Organic is pretty easy with turkeys if you’re buying from a high-end market such as Whole Foods, Andronico’s, Draeger’s or Lunardi’s. But, free range turkeys (as with all other animals) is a different story, with many varying degrees of free-ness. Several farms claim free range, but in fact all that has to, and sometimes does, mean, is that 100 feet of coop has one small window at the end and the turkeys are never let out. This can also mean that the turkeys, while outside some of the time, are penned in and walking around on bare dirt, requiring that they be fed a diet of mass-produced grains and supplements, rather than out in an open field where they can eat bugs and grubs and other yummy turkey things. Not as bad as a Safeway turkey, but not as good as my top two picks for this year.
In all my research, I came across some devastating photos and information. While I know these things, visuals always serve to remind me why I fight for small animal farms where our food is treated with respect and care. Take a look at this comprehensive report from farmsacntuary.org and their short video that’s sure to make you think twice about what you put in your mouth, or that of your children. Here are some more graphic and distressing photos of the process from insemination to death if you want to know what you’re eating when you don’t know exactly where your food comes from.
If you’re no longer interested in turkey for Thanksgiving, here are some good ideas and info to start you on your way.