Talking Turkey in an Odd-Bird Year
Whether it’s changes to travel plans or the size of gatherings, this year’s holiday season will be atypical for many people. Area farms and butchers have made a few changes in 2020, but there should be plenty of turkey and other locally-raised meat to gobble up this Thanksgiving.
I caught a gap between rain showers to tour the Deck Family Farm in Junction City. Pigs, cows, goats and chickens roam the sunlit green pastures. As we walked on the wet dirt road, Poultry Manager Christopher Lyans said 300 turkeys had already been processed. “We did twice as many turkeys as we normally do, and they sold out really fast, but I don’t think we did that intentionally, we just wanted to do more turkeys this year.” Farm owner Christine Deck added, “We grew them a little bit smaller because people said that gatherings would be smaller, so we aimed to finish smaller birds but we didn’t really do that, the sizes didn’t change this year.”
Lyans said the farm, which employs about 20 people, switched to more direct-to-consumer accounts in the spring when restaurant sales faded. In general, the business is doing well. Lyans attributed some increased sales to the pandemic. “People I think felt an urgent need to eat healthier," he said, "and they felt that pasture-based farming was a good solution to up their immune system.”
Deck said she hopes to grow more organic and heritage birds next year, noting, “I think that consumer awareness is increasing in terms of health benefits, not just health benefits of eating clean meat, but also the environmental cost, or the benefit I guess, of raising organic animals.”
Deck said heritage birds, with old genetics, have more blood supply to the meat, better mineralization, and better flavor.
At Long’s Meat Market in South Eugene, Manager Daren King said they’re getting some different requests this year, probably because hosts expect fewer people at the table. “It’s interesting, though," said King, "there’s lots more like guinea fowl, and game hen and pheasant. We get a few of those orders every year, but it’s definitely a lot more of the smaller birds.”
The 90-year old, family-run business has had good sales, but King said Coronavirus measures can take a toll, emotionally. As an example, he said, “Our big issue this year is trying to get everyone their turkey without a line to 27th Street, just because we can only allow so many people in the shop.”
King said smaller turkeys are running short, and to call as soon as possible if it’s important to have one. He said there will be options available, though, even until the day before Thanksgiving. It’s a butcher shop, he said, that’s what they do.