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The turkey at the center of your holiday table isn’t just a delicious tradition, it’s also a statement. No, not a statement about your cooking skills (which are stellar). Rather, that golden-skinned bird can (and should) align with your overarching food philosophy.
If you regularly eschew grocery store meat and poultry, why buy a Butterball stacked in a supersized freezers? When you order a heritage turkey from small operators such as Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe in LoHi, you’re rewarded with a humanely raised bird that is not only better for you, but also the turkey itself and the farmer. “When you spend money at a grocery story, only 7 to 11 cents of every dollar actually goes to a farmer. The rest goes to everyone in between,” says Josh Curtiss, who co-owns Western Daughters with Kate Kavanaugh. “When you come to our shop, 40 to 50 cents goes directly to the farmer. That’s a big difference.”
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Curtiss and Kavanaugh have spent years trying to source locally raised poultry but have, in the end, turned to out-of-state producers because Colorado’s processing laws favor big agriculture. (In the meantime, Kavanaugh is actively working with the Department Agriculture and Department Health and Human Services to rewrite the guidelines.)
This year, Western Daughters is bringing in turkeys from Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch in Kansas. Good Shepherd owner Frank Reese has become the face of the heritage bird movement. This is largely due to his cameo in Eating Animals, both the book by Jonathan Safran Foer and the recent documentary, narrated by Natalie Portman. “Frank is super passionate about heritage, free access to dirt and sunshine, and really taking care of these birds,” Curtiss says. “The animal welfare aspect is as important to him as it is to us.”
There’s more to the turkey equation than animal husbandry, of course. Put simply, heritage breeds in general and Good Shepherd birds specifically are more expensive—sometimes shockingly so. To this Curtiss answers: “[These birds] cost more on the base level for the farmer to raise, and we pay the farmer appropriately. Our cost is three to six times more.” But you can also count on a bird that really tastes like…well…real turkey.
So how best to showcase this special bird? Curtiss and Kavanaugh have answers for that, too. With every purchase, they provide a tip sheet on how to cook a well-raised and pasture-raised bird. “Because it’s a more expensive bird and Thanksgiving is the only holiday that’s entirely about the meal, that can lead to a lot of anxiety,” Curtiss says. As for Curtiss and Kavanaugh, they braise the legs and thighs and give the breasts a hard sear in ghee. “When we served it this way last year, we said ‘we’ll never do a turkey another way again.’ ”
Western Daughters’ turkeys are $13 a pound and require a $75 deposit that’s applied to the purchase total at pickup. Birds are still available to order, but the last day for pickup is Wednesday, November 21.
Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe, 3326 Tejon St., 303-477-6328