It’s the first of December on Thursday, which means that this is the week when most people begin to think about ordering their Christmas turkey. And that means it’s also the week when the anti-turkey people in your family will trot out their annual argument that turkey’s dry, bland and tasteless, and couldn’t we have something else this year.
And it’s true: a lot of the turkeys on the market will be dry, bland and tasteless. Through no fault of their own, they’ve been raised from a breed which exists purely to grow fast and make weight. They don’t have the time to develop any flavour. They’re product in a bulk business, not a bird to be savoured.
When I was thinking about Thanksgiving last week, I came across this article about American rare-breed turkeys, and it made me think of a couple of things.
Firstly, we’re very lucky here in the UK that we have turkey farmers like the Kellys and the Copases, who raise free-range traditional, slow-growing bronze turkeys which have bags of flavour. But even with their growing profile, according to the Turkey Club UK, a lot of people still think a turkey’s just a turkey.
And then it made me think of pork. Think back about ten years or so, and you’ll probably remember rare breed pork taking off in the wider market place. People cottoned onto the fact that Tamworths, Gloucestershire Old Spots, Berkshires and Middle Whites tasted infinitely better than commercial pork, and they were worth seeking out. They also realised that they were in danger of extinction, and that, paradoxically, by eating them we were saving the breed. To this day, there are less than 300 registered breeding Tamworth sows in the UK, so even with their current popularity, they’re still not quite out of the woods yet (and there are plenty of other breeds in serious trouble, too.) But still, popular demand has led to their recovery, and to the shops selling better tasting pork.
Why can’t we do the same for the turkey? After all, here in the UK, we really only buy it once a year. Is it too much to ask us maybe to skip a few meaty meals elsewhere in the year to buy a better bird at Christmas?