Dear Heritage Foods USA Supporter,
We are very proud to present to you the following press release regarding our first serious entry into the powerful world of institutionalized dining in the United States.
We are very happy that Emory University has invested in our Heritage Turkey Project and hope that more institutions do the same.
Of course none of this would have been possible if not for the years of support of you our mail order customers. So thank you! And please order your turkey now if you have not already.
Click here to order –
At Emory University’s Heritage Harvest Feast,
Turkeys Would Give Thanks, If They Could
Atlanta, Georgia—Eating turkeys can help to save their lives. This will be one of the lessons digested by 8,000 Emory University students, faculty and staff at their upcoming “Heritage Harvest Feast,” designed to spotlight delicious, local, sustainable foods, and to bring attention to the importance of preserving biodiversity by showcasing “heritage” breeds of turkey provided by Heritage Foods USA.
Heritage Foods USA, based in Brooklyn, New York, exists to help save numerous varieties of livestock from extinction by working with small farms dedicated to breed preservation and bring their products to consumers and wholesale accounts. “By purchasing heritage turkeys for the holiday feast on our campus, Emory Dining is supporting a network of independent growers who are dedicated to preserving endangered lines of turkey breeds, as well ensuring humane animal treatment,” commented Joe Mitchell, Resident District Manager for Sodexo, which has handled Emory University’s food service since 2005.
First and foremost, showcasing the heritage turkeys at Emory’s Heritage Harvest Feast is consistent with Emory’s commitment to sustainable foods and protecting biodiversity, explained Julie Shaffer, Emory’s Sustainable Food Service Education Coordinator. “By purchasing these heritage turkeys, Emory is doing its part to help ensure that this is a viable consumer market for them. This is the only way that turkey farmers will be able to continue to raise and preserve the breeds,” she said.
“What better way to educate the Emory community about sustaining our food heritage than by celebrating with a delicious holiday meal!” Shaffer added.
On Thursday, November 19th, a whopping 1,600 pounds of prime poultry (about 130 birds) will be served at Emory University as part of a campus-wide lunchtime meal inspired by recipes of a very special guest chef: Virginia Willis. Willis— a French-trained chef, food writer, cooking teacher, and television producer who has worked with Martha Stewart, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree—is the author of several cookbooks, including Bon Appétit Y'All, which was recognized as one of the top three American Cookbooks of 2008 by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.
The heritage turkeys destined for the Emory Heritage Harvest Feast will be mostly the American Bronze breed and will hail from Good Shepherd Ranch in Tampa, Kansas. Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch, which boasts the oldest continual genetic strain of standard-bred turkeys in North America, was the first turkey farm in the nation to receive the Animal Welfare Institute’s Animal Welfare Approved certification. Many years ago, Robert “Frank” Reese—a fourth generation farmer who still resides on the 100-year, 160-acre farm on the prairies of Kansas—had the opportunity to preserve the knowledge and the bloodlines from heritage farmers of the early 1900s. Reese brought together a group of neighboring farmers to help him raise his birds and, today sells his cherished birds to the members of his network each spring, significantly increasing population counts of heritage turkeys. “The best way to save these historic breeds is to return them to our dinner tables,” Reese notes.
Since 2002, a partnership between Good Shepherd Turkey Ranch and Heritage Foods USA has led to one of the greatest conservation success stories of this decade and a future for the most delicious tasting turkey in America.
“Emory University is unique in its support of the turkey project,” explained Shaffer. “For the second year in a row, Emory Dining chefs are educating future consumers about the importance of preserving the biodiversity of our livestock gene pool by serving these delicious turkeys at the annual Thanksgiving meal on campus.”
Shaffer, working in conjunction with Emory Dining, leveraged her past role as the president of Slow Food Atlanta to bring something unique to Emory: breeds of turkeys that just a few years ago were on the brink of extinction. In fact, Emory is the only college or university in the nation to partner with a national distribution network that specializes in cultivating the resurgence of endangered breeds of turkeys.
At Emory, heritage turkeys will be served next to Broad Breasted White turkeys, which are produced to yield the most meat at the lowest possible cost and comprise 99.99% of the supermarket turkeys sold today. Students will be able to taste for themselves the nuances of flavor between mass produced turkeys and heritage turkeys. Praised by chefs as being richer in flavor than industrial birds, heritage turkeys also contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, a family of unsaturated fatty acids praised in recent years for many proven health benefits.
Thanksgiving provides a seasonal opportunity to educate within the context of a holiday filled with good food,” said Patty Erbach, senior director, Emory Dining. “There will be a significant educational component associated with Emory’s Heritage Harvest Feast, including comparison taste-testing between heritage and industrial turkeys, plus little-known facts about the turkey, and the rest of the sustainable-sourced menu,” she said.
Heritage turkeys are also happier foul, compared to the Broad Breasted White turkey. On a quality-of-life scale, heritage turkeys have it pretty good. Heritage turkeys take 26 weeks to grow (rather that 14 weeks for industrial birds), mate naturally (as opposed artificial insemination method), and are fed 100% vegetarian feed with no antibiotics, genetically modified organisms or animal byproducts. Heritage turkeys are also given a lot of room to roam, as farmers frequently move them to new, clean pastures. All in all, a true heritage turkey lives a full life, engages in positive social interactions, mates naturally and performs instinctive behaviors essential to its health and wellbeing.
According to Patrick Martins, who founded Heritage Foods USA in 2001, the 45 million turkeys that will end up on most people’s Thanksgiving Day plates this year will have lived completely different lives than the uniquely raised heritage turkey. “It probably hatched in an incubator on a huge farm, most likely in the Midwest or the South. Its life went downhill from there. A few days after hatching—in the first of many unnatural if not unnecessarily painful indignities—it had its upper beak and toenails snipped off. A turkey is normally a very discriminating eater (left to its own devices, it will search out the exact food it wants to eat). In order to fatten it up quickly, farmers clip the beak, transforming it into a kind of shovel. With its altered beak, it can no longer pick and choose what it will eat. Instead, it will do nothing but gorge on the highly fortified corn-based mash that it is offered, even though that is far removed from the varied diet of insects, grass and seeds turkeys prefer. The toenails are removed so that they won't do harm later on—in the crowded conditions of industrial production, mature turkeys are prone to picking at the feathers of their neighbors and even cannibalizing them,” he said.
Martins said that today’s farmers could be “sowing the seeds of their own misfortune” by relying solely on a single strain of turkey, no matter how profitable. “By relying solely on a single strain of the Broad Breasted White, and producing it in huge vertically integrated companies that control every aspect of production, entire flocks and even the species itself is one novel pathogen away from being wiped off the American dinner table. The future of the turkey as we know it rests on only one genetic strain. And the fewer genetic strains of an animal that exist, the less chance that the genes necessary to resist a lethal pathogen are present,” he said. “It's for this reason that maintaining genetic diversity within any species is crucial to a secure and sustainable food supply. Sadly for the turkey and for us, the rise of the Broad Breasted White means that dozens of other turkey varieties, including the Bourbon Red, Narragansett and Jersey Buff, have been pushed to the brink of extinction because there is no longer a market for them.”
Sodexo, Inc. (www.sodexoUSA.com) is a leading integrated facilities management services company in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, with $7.7 billion (USD) in annual revenue and 120,000 employees. Sodexo serves more than ten million customers daily in corporations, health care, long term care and retirement centers, schools, college campuses, government, and remote sites. Sodexo, Inc., headquartered in Gaithersburg, Md., is a member of Sodexo Group, and funds all administrative costs for the Sodexo Foundation (www.sodexofoundation.org), an independent charitable organization that, since its founding in 1999, has made more than $11 million in grants to fight hunger in America.