Consumers turn toward high-end turkeys

Nov. 23, 2011 at 4:51 PM

FRESNO, Calif., Nov. 23 (UPI) -- California retailers, farmers and consumers said this Thanksgiving season has seen an increased demand for higher-end free range and heirloom breed turkeys.

The Heritage Turkey Foundation said demand for heirloom breeds -- including Bourbon Red, Jersey Buff and Black Spanish, which cost $6 to $12 per pound compared to about 50 cents per pound for frozen grocery turkeys -- exceeds supply because the turkeys can take up to 30 weeks before they're ready to be sold, nearly twice the time for an average frozen turkey, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

"My phone is ringing nonstop," said Mary Pitman, whose family raises heritage turkeys on a Fresno-area farm. "Everyone's on a mad hunt for heritage turkeys and there's almost not enough left for my own family. It's the most sought-out bird in the U.S."

Whole Foods stores said organic birds now account for about 40 percent of the chain's turkey sales.

"Customers are much more into food now than they were a few years ago because of food magazines and TV shows," said Theo Weening, global meat coordinator for Whole Foods. "People want to know where the bird comes from, what breed it is, how it's been raised."

Kathy Gori, 60, a screenwriter who has homes in Sonoma and Santa Monica, said she prefers the higher-end turkeys.

"People want a bird that has a name, a provenance, a pedigree -- a bird you can brag about," she said.

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