THE NOBLE TURKEY

April 15, 2016 by Taylor Collins posted on Land + Livestock, The Whole Animal Project

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Wild Turkey is an iconic North American bird that is as rich in history as it is flavor. As a matter of fact, if Benjamin Franklin would have had his way, the wild turkey would have been the national bird of the United States. Ben Franklin’s admiration for this animal was rooted in the fearless personality of these bad ass birds. He noted that the bald eagle was nothing more than a scavenger that could be bullied by a bird half its size. A turkey however was so brave that it would fearlessly charge a British solider who entered its territory! With true athletic prowess and fine tuned instinct, the American Turkey is a superstar amongst birds.

Unfortunately over the last century, turkey has been fully assimilated into the industrialized factory farm system. We quickly identified this problem 3 years ago when we couldn’t find a year round supply of pastured turkey. The few pastured birds out on the market are raised seasonally for Thanksgiving and Christmas and outside of those months, these majestic creatures are raised in confined spaces that discourage natural behaviors. Similar to factory chicken, these animals are fed diets that encourage rapid growth without consideration to their biological health. It's a tragedy that these brave, curious, wild birds have been degenerated to under-stimulated obese animals.

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Since day one, we have been working to grow the supply chain of all pastured animals, but finding a partner to raise turkey outside (year round) has been a true struggle. Thankfully we have aligned ourselves with warrior renegade ranchers who are as fearless and thrive while raising animals on the forefront of upmost humane standards. Partnerships such as these are the disruptive catalyst that creates real change in the food system. 

It is with our greatest excitement to announce that with the help of White Oak Pastures, EPIC is creating the world’s first supply of year round pastured turkey! In what is a monumental deviation from conventional turkey farming, the Harris family of White Oak Pastures is growing a monster flock of year round birds that will fit into our Whole Animal Project. We will be using 100% of the meat in EPIC bars and Bites, and the bones and feet for Broth. In a true "beak to tail approach", the feathers are put into an aerobic digester and converted to compost while the turkey heads will be dehydrated and used for pet treats! NONE of this amazing animal will go to waste!

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Our very first flock of 1,200 pastured turkeys is now 3 weeks old! These teenagers spend their days outside and unconfined, foraging on insects and grass -- just how nature intended. Currently these birds share a multi-species pasture with grass fed goats and lamb and have the freedom to roam in the nearby woods or grasslands.

What makes me most happy is that these birds are encouraged to indulge in their natural behaviors throughout their lives! Upon our first visit, these noble turkeys charged at us with curiosity and freedom; a magnificent sight to see, I envisioned a future flock of 20,000 birds! Thanks to our amazing consumers who vote with their dollars, it is with our upmost joy to contribute to return of the courageous turkey! This is a big win for everyone!

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