It’s not that easy to get duped into buying a heritage turkey because it seems fairly hard to actually find one unless you’re willing to drive out to a farm. But what about “heirloom” turkeys which are easy enough to acquire at Whole Foods? What does a “heirloom turkey” even mean?
From an article at Chowhound:
Others imply that the bird is heritage on the package, when it really isn’t. In Whole Foods in San Francisco, for instance, you can buy Diestel “American Heirloom Collection” turkeys, which, the fine print says, are “derived from a Bronze and an Auburn” turkey. (Bronze and Auburns are two heritage-breed turkeys.) However, the heirloom turkeys sold by Diestel are actually an organically raised crossbreed that incorporates both heritage genes and nonheritage. “We have those old breeds, and cross them and tweak them to get a turkey that we think performs well on the table,” says President Tim Diestel. The actual heritage breeds, Diestel correctly notes, don’t have a lot of meat on them, and can be “disappointing” to customers who are used to big, fat, juicy commodity birds. His bird, he says, is like the best of both worlds: It contains a bit more dark meat and rich turkey taste than a typical bird, but is still big and juicy.
And what about a more independent taste test? Erica at Northwest Edible Life says pretty good compared to a modern breed, raised organically:
It may just be perception lining up with expectation, but 5 out of 6 of the adult tasters preferred the Heirloom turkey to the Broad Breasted White. The flavor was described as “richer” and “more intense” compared to the meat of the BBW. Both were excellent turkeys, with very good flavor and texture. But, particularly for those of us who prefer dark meat, the Heirloom bird offered superior flavor. The one vote for the BBW came from a taster who prefers only white meat and appreciated its “milder” flavor.
Oh hey, I like gamey flavored dark meat and texture. Sounds like a winner.
It seems like heirloom turkeys used to be priced higher than the organic turkeys, but now at Whole Foods they are priced the same (actually the organic turkeys are 50¢ more per pound but Amazon Prime Subscribers are eligible for a promotional price).
I’ll try to remember to report back on my experience at the end of the month. You can’t just judge based on the Thanksgiving feast, you have to take into account the parade of leftovers as well.