Fresh Look: A Visit with My Thanksgiving Turkey

Charlotte Fresh and hubby made the 43-mile (one-way) trip up to Carlea Farms in Millingport, NC (Stanly County) to see our farmer friend, Carl Wagner, and to visit our Thanksgiving turkey – one of 17 happy, healthy Bronze turkeys that Carl is pasture-raising for this holiday season.  The Wagners farm their land naturally, employing crop rotation and using no harmful chemicals.

One of Carl Wagner's Bronze turkeys

One of Carl Wagner's Bronze turkeys

To pasture-raise a turkey involves allowing it to forage on grass and insects, moving the enclosure to fresh pasture when the grass is eaten down.  Additionally, the turkey is fed quality grain supplements as needed.  The turkey is free to roam about the safety boundaries of the enclosure and is protected at night in a structure away from predators like coyotes.

This is contrasted with the conventional intensive turkey farm which raises turkeys primarily inside a long shed-like structure where the birds stand with bodies practically touching, with no room to roam around and little to no access to the outdoors.  With no exercise and concentrated feed, the turkeys can get larger and more top-heavy, which can be unhealthy. “Between 1965 and 2000, the weight of the average turkey raised commercially in the U.S. increased by 57 percent, from an average of 18 pounds to an average of 28.2 pounds, causing commercially-bred turkeys to suffer from crippling foot and leg problems.”1 Pasture-raising is better and less stressful for the turkey during its lifetime, but requires more involvement from the farmer who not only has to raise the turkey, but to maintain the grass pasture as well.

Carlea Farms Farmer Carl Wagner with his Bronze turkeys

Carlea Farms Farmer Carl Wagner with his Bronze turkeys

I didn’t know this: turkeys are difficult and expensive to raise; there is naturally a high failure rate in poults (baby turkeys), and many die within the first few days of life.  Out of the poults that Carl started with, he probably has about half of the turkeys left.  I don’t know which of the 17 birds will be mine, but I greeted all of them.  Here are some more pictures to show you just how good and healthy their environment is:

Happy Bronze turkeys

Happy Bronze turkeys

A moveable feast - Carl regularly moves the enclosures to fresh pasture

A moveable feast - Carl regularly moves the enclosures to fresh pasture

The Wagners run a healthy farm - check out these greens!

The Wagners run a healthy farm - check out these greens!

In addition to the Bronze turkeys for Thanksgiving, Carl is also pasture-raising Broad-Breasted White turkeys for Christmas.  The Thanksgiving birds will be delivered fresh, while the Christmas turkeys will be frozen.  All the 2010 Thanksgiving birds are already spoken for, but if you would like to catch one of his fabulous 2010 Christmas turkeys before supply runs out, contact him and place your order now!

Basking in the sun...will be ready for Christmas

Basking in the sun...will be ready for Christmas

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About charlottefresh

Helping Charlotte find fresh local food. Spread the word.
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3 Responses to Fresh Look: A Visit with My Thanksgiving Turkey

  1. we are also going to be enjoying a turkey from Carlea Farms. i was lucky enough to get one due to a cancellation. loved seeing all the pics of the farm and the turkeys. every time i read about how people are making a difference in the way they humanely treat the animals….it makes me so thankful…thank you farmers….

  2. Danielle says:

    Thanks for the interesting post — I was a member of Carlea’s CSA this past summer and have a turkey reserved for Christmas! The Wagner’s are great to work with and I enjoyed seeing the pics of their farm!

  3. Chris says:

    That must have been quite the field trip, meeting your future Thanksgiving dinner. I had no idea how hard it is to raise turkeys, and I’m quite impressed with that ingenious mobile enclosure. I take it Carl also keeps their wings clipped so they don’t “hop” the fence.

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