That’s the number of heritage breeding turkeys left in 1997.
That’s perilously close to extinction. Why this is a bad thing is for later…
Enter Frank Reese.
Frank is a nurse anesthetist that got bit (hard) when he was a boy by the “antique turkey” bug.
He was enthralled by heritage breeds like the Standard Bronze, the Narragansett, and the Bourbon Red:
Breeds that our ancestors ate from the 1600s to, say, the 1950s…
Breeds that achieved iconic fame in Norman Rockwell’s masterpiece “Freedom from Want”…
Breeds that the culinary greats swear produce a flavor so indulgent that it absolutely must be experienced ( they’re the “Dom Perignon of Turkeys”, if you will).
Reese can’t explain why he was immediately drawn to the cause of poultry conservation; he just was…
The Last Request of a Dying Turkey Farmer
Fast forward to the deathbed of his mentor, a master poultry breeder.
In the waning light of this mater’s life, the baton was passed; Frank promised him that he would do all in his power to keep these national treasures from breathing their last.
And he made good on his word.
In 1997 he became perhapsthe key player in the resurgence of heritage turkeys, in concert with Heritage Foods USA and a handful of poultry farmers.
The Don Corleone of Heritage Turkeys
Reese is now hailed as the godfather of the heritage meat movement.
Like any good godfather, he devotes his time to humble suppliants who want to learn from him (like Matt & Kristal Burdick of Michigan’s Idle River Farms–they raise free-range heritage turkeys).
But, you object, if he didn’t save the heritage turkey we’d still celebrate Thanksgiving and do so with your run-of-the-mill supermarket turkey.
Yes, we would still have the ubiquitous Broad Breasted White turkey that emerged in the 1950s or ’60s, now the widget of many a factory farm.
But to compare a conventional turkey to an heirloom turkey is, I’m afraid, a bit like comparing our current caliber of political candidates to George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. Or elevator music to an evening with Andrea Bocelli. Or modern art with Monet.
A heritage turkey, you see, not only embodies a taste of the past, it celebrates the values of the farmers who raise them, and–dare I say–the ideals of Colonial America.
And should you want that antique taste of a heritage turkey this Thanksgiving, Duba & Co. is the exclusive purveyor of Idle River Farms’ heritage turkeys. What’s more, they’re the only heritage turkeys in the United States that come with this guarantee: the best turkey of your life or your money back*.