nastyCookedTurkey

Why your 45 cent per pound turkey tastes like a $5 turkey

Let’s face the facts: A manufactured turkey tastes like a manufactured turkey. In point of fact, even calling it a manufactured turkey should turn your stomach. Do you really think a turkey which will feed your family— your spouse, children, and friends— should really be worth $5 and change? In this lifetime, you get what you pay for. What does $5 worth of turkey taste like? Cardboard.

Store Bought Turkey: A Chemical Playground

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The problem often has to do with the age of the turkey. Its pulled off a manufacturing line, “Processed”, pumped full of liquids to make it look big, and frozen. How long is that turkey frozen? Well, they’re not required to tell you. You cannot look the farmer in the eye and ask, only the taste will tell you. So, does it taste fresh? Some companies will inject their turkeys with phosphates and other water- and fat-retention compounds, so that the “overcooked” parts seem more juicy. A modern American drops a turkey in an oven and walks away to stare at their TV, never thinking about the flavor their missing. But even the miracles of modern science can’t help when a turkey is blasted with heat for hours on end and roasted to near-coal.

Most home cooks are content to follow the directions on the turkey wrapper (like its a box of macaroni or can of soup), which tells them to cook the turkey at 350 degrees for roughly 20 to 30 minutes per pound (pretty wide discrepancy, that). They’ll throw it in the oven first thing in the morning, baste it a couple times over the course of the day, and just lay around until the completely useless built-in thermometer most commercial turkeys have in them pops up, indicating that the center is up to the temp it needs to be. They expect turkey to be bland, tasteless, and they lean on the flavors of gravy to cover their poor decisions.

Free Range Organic to the Rescue

A turkey who isn’t cramped into a cage its whole life is bursting with flavors, strong, and full of living joy from great treatment. You can taste it in every bite, and you’ll never go back. The loosely packed stuffing and water-rich vegetables inside the roasting bird retain that cooking moisture and swell, creating a moist, flavorful bird and dressing your family will fight over. Isn’t that what you want? At Southern Shepherd Farms, I think we know the answer as well as you do.

A few years ago, a vast amount of store-bought turkeys were recalled because they harbored “drug-resistant salmonella”. The increased cost of many turkeys has to do with the amount of growth hormones, drugs, and antibiotics these turkeys require to meet “living standards”. Some brands seek to undercut the cost by offering scrawny birds inflated with water, or re-offering unsold frozen birds. I won’t link to it here, but you can certainly find videos of turkey inflation by searching for “cheating in Turkey : filled with water.unbelievable”.

People do not taste things “blind”. When you say you have a $5 turkey and it was a great bargain, its not a mistake that it tastes like a $5 turkey. Especially building on the dry, stringy flavor of that bird. On the other hand, let them taste your free range, organic turkey and its a different story. Tell them how you met the farmer, how you visited a real, living farm and not a sterile grocery aisle, and watch how that flavor is reflected in a juicy, savory bird.

Alternatives? I think not

You may find that some people have a way to make their flavorless bird seem appetizing. Many use a deep-frying method, hoping a moist heat will bring some flavor— any flavor at all— back to their $5 bargain bird. Why risk your life just to get flavor? Deep-frying a whole turkey is incredibly dangerous. Don’t believe me? Well, there are countless YouTube fried turkey fail compilations that prove this—check it out if you want to see dads dropping bargain birds into their deep-fat friers only to run away a second later as the whole operation becomes a deck-consuming fireball. You don’t need to call to the fire department to make turkey taste good. What you need is quality from the start.

Many of your friends skimp on quality only to fervently mention that “presentation is more important than taste on Thanksgiving”. Well, you certainly have a point there. The taste of a $5 bird roasted for hours without attention really clues us in as to why we all drink so much on Thanksgiving. It’s probably to help us forget how miserable the turkey tastes. Anyway, at least you still have family and friends to make it tolerable.

So, why not make your family happy, watch their eyes feast on the bird with the moistest, most flavorful meats you’ve ever had. Will it be another year of “Cardboard drowning in gravy” or will it be a year of fantastic “Free range fantasy”.

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Why do my eggs look weird?

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At Southern Shepherd Farms, we produce a lot of great eggs. People who buy our eggs often have had some bad experiences with their previous egg providers. They show us plenty of “Wind” or “fairy” eggs, wrinkled, misshapen or speckled eggs from their old provider and ask us fairly often (and sent all kinds of crazy photos via email) about their own free range eggshell issues – bumps, ridges, tiny spots, speckles, soft shells. Most are nothing to worry about.

Although an egg is often a good representation of overall hen health—healthy hens who are fed a well-balanced diet lay the most uniform, beautiful eggs—an abnormal egg every once in awhile is actually pretty normal.

Let’s See If We Can Easily Explain It

We dug up this chart online. It is a very good chart with a very complete listing of eggshell quality issues— in addition to some possible causes.

Photo credit: Alltech Poultry Advantage

Photo credit: Alltech Poultry Advantage

Use the handy chart above (click on the chart to view it full screen) to troubleshoot eggshell quality issues in your flock and realize that most ‘odd eggs’ are nothing to be concerned about. Most are a one-time thing. I would recommend keeping a close eye on which ever hen laid the odd egg, but not worry unless it becomes a regular occurrence. That can be an indication of a more serious health issue.

Here are some of the more benign, common, egg oddities you might run across…

“Wind” or “Fairy” Eggs

These are the tiny marble-sized eggs you might often find from new layers. Just a glitch where the shell begins to form without a yolk being released, so a far smaller shell encases just the egg white. It’s common in young layers before their bodies have everything all sorted out. While fine to eat, they won’t hatch if you try to incubate them, because even if there is a yolk inside, the shell isn’t large enough to allow embryo growth.

Double Yolked Eggs

The flip side of the coin are double yolkers. When two egg yolks are released too close together in the oviduct, sometimes the white (and shell) will encase them both, resulting in a gigantic egg. While a double yolk egg is generally nothing to worry about, if you have a hen laying them consistently, I would keep a close eye on her for egg binding, a potentially life-threatening situation. Double yolked eggs are okay to eat.

Speckled Eggs

As an egg travels down the oviduct, it spins. If it spins too fast, the egg can appear ‘smeared’. If it turns too slowly, it can end up being speckled with pigment. Many hens (especially Welsummers) lay speckled eggs regularly. Some of the prettiest eggs, these are perfectly fine to eat.

White Spots or Crust

White spots on the egg are often calcium deposits. If there is debris of any kind in the oviduct as the shell is being formed, calcium can be released to enclose that debris. That will result in rough white patches on the shell. The deposits can normally be brushed off with your fingernail and the egg is perfectly fine to eat.

Wrinkled or Ridged Eggs

Common in older layers, wrinkled eggs or eggs with ridges in the shell can also be caused by stress while laying, such as a dog barking, predator lurking, thunderstorm or other abnormal stressor. While aesthetically not the prettiest, the eggs are perfectly fine to eat.

Soft-Shelled Eggs

Soft-shelled eggs are usually due to a lack of calcium in the diet but there can be other reasons for shells being soft, including a diet that includes too much spinach. I wouldn’t risk eating a soft-shelled or no-shelled egg because its missing the first line of defense against bacteria getting inside – the shell.

Conclusion

Normally an odd egg is just a one-time glitch and nothing to worry about, but it’s always good to have something to reference….just in case. Let us know if you found this large poster a help in the comments below.

image from Diego James Navarro

10 Great Facts About Sustainable Agriculture

image from Diego James Navarro

image from Diego James Navarro

Here in February, we’ve been doing a lot of talking about sustainable agriculture with our friends and family. Its always interesting to discuss the finer points of what you’re trying to do with your life on a daily basis. Its also good to find out a little more about what you believe in and how the world agrees with your thought process.

There are four major goals to achieving sustainable agriculture in the world:

  • Satisfy human food needs, and contribute to biofuel needs.
  • Enhance environmental quality.
  • Sustain the economic viability of agriculture.
  • Enhance the quality of life for farmers, farm workers and society as a whole.

10 Great Facts About Sustainable Agriculture

  1. 40% of today’s global population works in agriculture, making it the single largest employer in the world.

  2. Sustainable agriculture is the rejection of the industrial approach to food production (aka factory farms). It integrates three main things: environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity.
  3. The ecological and social price of factory farms is: erosion, deforestation, depleted and contaminated soil and water resources, loss of biodiversity, labor abuses, and the decline of family farms.
  4. The concept of sustainable agriculture embraces a wide range of techniques, including organic, free-range, low-input, holistic, and biodynamic.
  5. With this type of farming, chemical pesticides or fertilizers aren’t necessary, crop diversity is encouraged, and precipitation provides irrigation water.
  6. Organic farming typically requires 2.5 times more labor than conventional farming, but it yields 10 times the profit.
  7. Organic food products saw a 7.7% growth rate in 2010, compared to 2009. Organic food accounts for nearly 4% of all food products sold in the U.S.
  8. In contrast, 88% of corn and 94% of soybeans were genetically modified in 2011. This number was less than 20% in 1996.
  9. “Healthy” soil is an important component of sustainability. Methods to enhance and protect the productivity of the soil include using cover crops, compost/manures, avoiding traffic on wet soils, and maintaining soil cover with plants/mulches.
  10. The goal of sustainable farmers is to develop efficient, biological systems that don’t need high levels of material inputs (aka harmful chemicals).

Just in case you think we might have pulled this out of the blue, here are our sources:

Sources

  1. CGIAR. “Agriculture and Rural Development Day 2012: Lessons in Sustainable Landscapes and Livelihoods.” 2012.

  2. National Geographic Society. “Sustainable Agriculture.”
  3. National Geographic Society. “Sustainable Agriculture.”
  4. National Geographic Society. “Sustainable Agriculture.”
  5. National Geographic Society. “Sustainable Agriculture.”
  6. The Center for Sustainability at Aquinas College. “Sustainable Agriculture.”
  7. Center for Sustainable Systems at University of Michigan. “U.S. Food System Factsheet.” 2014.
  8. Center for Sustainable Systems at University of Michigan. “U.S. Food System Factsheet.” 2014.
    National Geographic Society. “Sustainable Agriculture.”

  9. Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis. “What is Sustainable Agriculture?”
Meet Ferdinand, our late Fall Arrival.

Meet Ferdinand, our latest fall arrival

Meet Ferdinand, our late Fall Arrival.

Meet Ferdinand, our late Fall Arrival.

This fall marked a great new addition to Southern Shepherd Farms: Ferdinand! Here you can see Ferdinand sharing a moment with his mother after a playful, yet muddy romp. Do you care about Ferdinand’s future? If you want to know more or make a suggestion/offer, contact us today.