I just ordered my Thanksgiving turkey from Black Forest Meadery. And why not? For the past three years, I've bought my holiday bird from Gregory and Daniel Shapiro and have always been more than pleased with the quality and freshness of the fowl. Their dad and mom make honey wine at the meadery.
The boy's parents have several acres where the brothers raise animals for their projects with Angel Fire 4-H Club in Ellicott.
The brothers are good at what they do. One of the turkeys they raised together this year, named Doc Holiday, took first place at the National Western Stock Show.
"This year we are raising 28 turkeys," emailed Shawna Shapiro, the brothers' mom. "I believe that this is the largest flock we have raised to date. We have a hold on seven, but once I put out this email, they usually move fast."
These are American Heritage Bronze turkeys, and I like to think of them as old-fashioned gobblers. The modern, commercially raised turkeys that exploded on the scene have been genetically modified to meet consumer demand.
They have white feathers; the Bronze bird's are brown. Dark feathers left dark spots on the bird's skin, which consumers didn't like. For the record, the birds I've gotten from the brothers have perfectly clean white skin - no dark spots.
Modern birds have been bred to be larger, yielding more white meat and bigger drumsticks. They are also rounder, while the old-fashioned birds are elongated, shaped more like a football. I usually go for a Bronze bird in the 12- to 15-pound range. They yield plenty of juicy white and dark meat for the big deal meal, with enough left over for the obligatory turkey sandwiches and maybe a pot of gumbo.
And their turkeys are never frozen. They must be picked up on the day they are processed. Not that this would matter to me. Having been vice president of marketing and consumer affairs for the National Turkey Federation for 10 years, I know that if you can't get a fresh turkey from a farmer, the frozen number is the freshest way to go.
That's because commercial turkeys are flash-frozen immediately after harvesting.
My turkey will cost a little more this year, but knowing that I'll get a great-tasting festive meal is worth every penny.
"Our processor raised their rate by a dollar," Shapiro said, "so we had to do the same. This year the turkeys will cost $4 a pound."
That money pays for the poults (baby turkeys), extra feed to supplement grass feeding, processing and other costs.
'Proceeds from the sales go to the boys' college education. And it fulfills one of the requirements for a 4-H project of raising turkeys.
If you're interested in giving an old-fashioned bird a try, call Black Forest Meadery at 495-7340.