It's Thanksgiving time once again, and this year we got to thinking that we were a little sick of the same old frozen bird. Which is how we came to discover Embudo Valley Organics—the home of the happy turkey (embudovalleyorganics.com). Manager John McMullin tells us they sell turkeys up to 30 pounds (woah!) and that the difference is in how the bird is raised. What other secrets might he hold from 22 years in the turkey biz?
Why go into the turkey business?
It just fit naturally into the ecosystem of the farm out here. For years we grew heirloom beans and corn, but in '94 the grasshopper infestation was so bad that we started to wonder if it would be good to find a way to make the grasshoppers and asset. Turkeys fit right into that, and now we've got this turkey militia out there running around taking care of them for us.
What is the most popular choice?
It depends. Some people want that 16-, 17-, 18-pound bird, and that's good, that will feed a family of five and maybe have some leftovers. We go up to about a 30-pound bird, and the restaurants love that size. People are looking for a high-end, quality product and we're certified organic, certified non-GMO. Our birds are field-grazed. ... "Free-range" is just a marketing term. It doesn't mean anything. You can say something is "free-range" and not actually have to give the bird any open space. Ours have that, it's why we call it "The home of the happy turkey."
Is there a noticeable taste difference when the turkeys have happy lives?
Y'know, we'll get people every year who tell us that our turkeys taste like they haven't tasted since they were kids and they'd go for Thanksgiving with their grandma and she'd raised the turkey and killed it that morning. People at least want to know where their turkey came from. You get out of it what you put in, like anything. It really makes for a very flavorful meat.