It’s all about the bird – how to pick the right turkey for your table

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It might seem like an easy task to choose a turkey for a meal, but all birds are not created equal.  There are brands of birds that have become household names, but that does not mean these turkeys are superior.  To find the best turkey, it is best to look at the source of your fowl.

With the advent of locavore dining, more consumers strive to eat foods produced close to home, in the name of freshness and ecology.  In an episode of the TV series Portlandia conscious eating was taken to the extreme when a couple at a restaurant would not eat their chicken until they traveled to the ranch to see where the chicken was raised and meet the farmers.

Without requiring a trek to a nearby farm, today with a bit of research consumers can learn all about the origins of their meal, whether it is prepared at home or ordered out.  When it comes to turkeys, the key to a savory bird is its feed and its lifestyle.

Many finer restaurants opt for artisan turkeys,  which is why their turkey often tastes superior to home-cooked turkey, but in fact the same turkeys can be purchased non-commercially if one knows where to buy them.  At all six locations of Palomino Restaurant & Bar across the US, known for their lavish turkey offerings for holiday meals, Diestel turkeys are served, sourced from a Sonoma, California, family-owned holistic farm that has been in operation since 1949.  These fine turkeys are also available in select supermarkets and online for home cooks.  The Diestel turkeys are raised on a vegetarian feed that is milled on the ranch, or, depending on the type of turkey, they are free to forage in open pastures.

When it comes to organic birds, many consumers are familiar with Non-GMO Project verification, but another system to be aware of pertaining to turkeys is GAP, or Global Animal Partnership.  Turkeys are awarded a rating based on the purity of the diet.

Whether it is for a special dinner at home for any occasion or for a Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter celebration or other holidays where turkey is a favored traditional dish, your centerpiece dish will be more memorable if you pay attention to the quality of the bird itself.

Top turkey brands will have a variety of birds to choose from based on the size desired and the consumer’s palate, such as Diestel’s Petite Turkey, weighing in at six to 10 pounds, which is perfect for everyday and small gatherings and is surprisingly meaty for is size.  For larger gatherings, there’s the richly flavored artisanal Diestel’s American Heirloom Turkey which is certified organic and non-GMO Project Verified.  These big birds tip the scales at 10 to 30 pounds.

While it might not be easy to find the best birds at your average grocery store, it is worth a bit of research or special ordering to make your main dish outstanding, and then the rest of the meal is all gravy.

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