Old-fashioned, Eco-friendly Turkeys

heritage turkeysheritage turkeysBy Trystan L. Bass

While the pilgrims might have eaten some fowl at the first Thanksgiving, historians doubt the original American colonists had a turkey dinner with any of the trimmings we'd recognize today.

But if you want your holiday dinner to have a little authentic history -- and be kinder to the earth -- order a heritage turkey this Thanksgiving. These varieties have changed little from their 19th-century forebearers and don't have a lot of the ills associated with more recent, mass-produced birds.

Heritage turkeys have long lifespans, mate naturally, and grow slowly. They're smaller than the modified birds because they don't have overdeveloped breasts, and heritage birds have a more balanced ratio of white and dark meat.

Farmers usually raise heritage turkeys "free range" so they get a richer, game-like flavor, plus the meat is leaner. Most, but not all heritage turkeys are organic, so make sure to ask.

Search for heritage turkey farms in your state on Local Harvest, or buy online from the same site. You may need to order a couple weeks in advance to ensure timely delivery.

Traditional cooking author William Rubel shares excellent tips for roasting a heritage turkey. Because of the size and composition of the meat, you'll need to adjust the cooking time and temperature. But this may work out better -- the bird may be done faster than you're used to!

Want to green-up the rest of your turkey day? Check out Consumer Reports' shopping tips for meats, fruits and vegetables, coffee, and chocolate. Mother Nature will have reason to thank you this Thanksgiving.

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