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Posted 11/17/2016 10:11am by Renee Savary.

Turkey lingo or what you should know before buying your bird …  

Turkey frenzy is under way and what is on the label will tell you a lot ... or nothing ... here are my 2 cents on it :

Fresh ….

What you think it means : The turkey was slaughtered this morning (or maybe yesterday) and was rushed to my local grocery store.

What it actually means: "Fresh" has nothing to do with the time between slaughter and sale. Instead, it means that the turkey has not been cooled to below 26 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words, it was never frozen.  

Young …

What you might think it means: This bird was killed at a younger age than most turkeys and is therefore more tender and delicious. Maybe it also suffered less.

What it actually means: The bird was likely killed at the same age as most other turkeys at 16 to 18 weeks, compared to the roughly 10 years turkeys live in the wild.  

Natural ...

What you might think it means: The turkeys have been raised in a "natural" environment, wandering around on a farm with a red barn, scavenging food and gobble-gobbling their cares away.

What it actually means: “Natural” is a non regulated term  and means whatever the user wants !! It has nothing to do with whether the turkeys got antibiotics or not, were living in filthy conditions or were confined indoors.

  Which bring us to a basic question : how exactly are most turkeys in the U.S. raised

The majority of turkeys are living in crowded houses,  football field-sized sheds that are entirely enclosed,  by the tens of thousands. Birds typically have their beaks cut to prevent them from injuring or killing one another, and are allotted an average of two square feet of space.

Manure often piles up beneath the birds, and ammonia hangs thick in the air. Many turkeys are routinely given antibiotic to prevent them from getting sick. Plus, modern turkeys have been genetically bred to mature quickly and have extremely large breasts (for more white meat).Many have trouble standing.

To be clear, turkey producers must still meet basic safety standards and the meat should be safe. But terms like "natural" are misleading consumers about how the birds are actually raised. Paying extra for "natural" is most of the time a waste !!!

Let's look at a few more dubious labels :

Free-Range ...

What you might think it means: These turkeys roam freely on a farm, pecking at the lush grass and getting more exercise than you do.

What it actually means: In some cases (on some small farms like Twin Oaks Farm), it does mean what you're picturing. But in the vast majority of cases, "free-range" turkeys are raised in the standard, crowded warehouses and as long as somewhere there is a door it can then be called “Free-Range” …

If the animal never even went outdoors, but you sort of open and close the door everyday then it can be called “free-range” !!!!  

Cage-Free ...

What you might think it means: This turkey had a better life than most, because at least it wasn't stuffed into a tiny cage.

What it actually means: This turkey's life was probably the same as most, because turkeys are not raised in cages.  

Premium ...

What you might think it means: This turkey is a higher grade of meat, and is more delicious and healthy.

What it actually means: Basically, nothing !!! Save your money …  

No Hormones Added ...

What you might think it means: This bird is healthier than most because it wasn't pumped full of the hormones that turn some turkeys into the Incredible Hulk

What it actually means: Once again, this term is misleading. By USDA law, turkeys (and other poultry) are not allowed to be given growth hormones. This said the use of “growth promoter” is common.

Humane/Non-Certified Humane ...

What you might think it means: Finally, a bird that has been raised according to an ethical set of principles. It was probably treated fairly and lived a decent life.

What it actually means: If there is no certifying agency, the label is probably meaningless. That's because the USDA allows companies to come up with their own definition of "humane" . That's most of the virtually meaningless terms. Let's move on to some labels that have at least some significance.

Kosher ...

What you might think it means: The turkey was raised according to a stricter set of hygiene standards. It was probably kept cleaner and healthier.

What it actually means: The turkey was probably raised in the same crowded house conditions as most turkeys. The only difference is that it was slaughtered according to a set of kosher principles.

Vegetarian-Fed/Grain-Fed ...

 What you might think it means: This turkey enjoyed a lush supply of greens and grains, replicating its natural diet.  

What it actually means: The bird probably ate what most turkeys eat: corn and soy. But these birds have not had their diets supplemented with animal by products, which does happen often. The irony, though, is that turkeys are not natural vegetarians. In the wild, or at Twin Oaks Farm, they eat a variety of bugs and worms, along with grass and other plants.  

Raised Without Antibiotics/No Antibiotics Administered ...

What you might think it means: These birds were never given any antibiotics of any kind.

What it actually means: These birds were given drugs only if they were sick, but not for growth promotion, feed efficiency or to prevent disease. It does not mean the birds were raised in more sanitary conditions, only that they were not given routine antibiotics.  

Heritage ...

What you think it means : Your turkey breed hark back to an era before industrial agriculture and genetic manipulation, bread naturally on a sweet red barn farm.  

What it actually means : There is no official certification program for the identification and labeling of heritage birds the way there is for organics. If you get a turkey from any grocery store you probably certain that the term “heritage” was stretched out meaning those birds have some of the genetics of heritage breed … you will find that on the very small print on the label … “Heritage” is the new fad, just don’t be fooled by it …  

Organic ...

 What you might think it means: These turkeys were raised on a steady diet of organic vegetables, green smoothies and yoga.  

What it actually means: To meet the requirements for the USDA Certified Organic, animals must have some access to the outdoors (though there's debate about whether or not most organic turkeys actually go outdoors), be fed only organic feed (non-GMO and grown without chemical pesticides) and must not be given antibiotic drugs on a routine basis. Commercial organic turkeys are a better options still knowing that  are raised in far from ideal conditions.  

Here at Twin Oaks Farm we try to raise it right and it is not cheap … no miracle …

And like everything else in food, cheap come at the expense of animal welfare, the environment and your health just to name a few ...  

Purchasing one of our turkey not only support your local farming but has a much broader impact that you may think of ... to give you an example … yesterday, as we were harvesting our birds, I noticed bees were buzzing on the  wheel barrel full of feathers .. Probably getting some minerals out of it or who knows what but this morning it was covered with bees … yesterday bees must have spread the word in BeeLand that we were running a Thanksgiving special on the other side of the house !!! … I will let that wheelbarrel out an extra day before composting those feathers … yes, composting is another by product  …  

Choose wisely my Friends …  

Turkey pre order

Posted 4/26/2012 8:44pm by Renee Savary.

Finally this week I got all the material I needed to split my beehives. I am doing better around my bees still I highly appreciate the help of my friend Dawn and we decided that bee handling was a two people job anyway !!! …

Getting ready

As we did for my friend’s hives a few weeks ago, the idea is to take 4 frames from the established hive and move them to a new one while replacing the old frames by 4 new ones in the established hive.

Pulling out frame from the super

Both of my hives have now two super (the additional boxes you see above the brood box), we had set the first one like 5 or 6 weeks ago and the second one 2 weeks ago. The top box was still fairly empty of bees and honey but the one below is almost full, we could not resist and took a frame to harvest the honey. The box was so heavy we had to move it together !!

frame caped with honey

Once we had the two super set aside we started to work on getting the 4 frames at the center out and moved them into the new brood box. In one of the hive we were able to locate the queen, trust me it is quite an accomplishment for beginners. I try to take a pix but between the veil and the huge gloves to try to zoom in, the pix was off focus …

view of a frame

Once we were done with the frames, we put back  the two super on the established hives and then  drove the two new ones to my friends at Working Cow Dairy, they are also certified organic so no risk for my bees to splurge on GMO’s or pesticide. We got them in a really nice area, surrounded by organic fields, with a little forest on one side and a nice stream running through, plenty of wild flowers all around.

I will check on them in a week or so and will keep you posted on the progress …

Posted 4/5/2012 12:40pm by Renee Savary.

Easy Duck Roasting ....

A few times a year I have Muscovy ducks available. They are raised slowly, over a 10/11 weeks period, on pasture supplemented with organic soyfree grains. The result is an incredible meat probably one of the best I ever had.

Most duck recipe are quite elaborate and can be intimidating. Raising ducks slowly on pasture let them develop their own flavor and I found out, like with our chickens, the simpler preparation was the better one and let you taste it’s true flavor. 

I first rub the duck with our Grey Sea salt and lemon and olive oil and black pepper, then cut the breast skin in a cross hatch pattern without cutting into the duck ... just to open the skin to let the extra fat drip ...

Warm up your oven to 325F and in a roasting pan cook it for 45 minuter per 1lb of duck ... for example a 4lb duck would be 3h ....

*** Note: on cooking time, if you get a larger duck, like 5 or 6lb, roast it like a 4lb one and then check the temperature, larger duck gets larger in lengh ... 3 to 4h cooking time should be enough for a 5 to 6lb duck. Also all temp/time are for a conventional oven and do NOT work for convection oven.

The first hour the duck is roasted breast side down, then turn it for the remaining time .. at time of turning I add 1 or 2lb (depending the size of the duck) of onions, cut into big chunk, to the bottom of the roasting pan .... the onions will caramelize in the duck fat ... 

Once the cooking time done I take the duck out of the oven, cover it with foil and let it stand for 15 minutes ... then carve it ...

In  the meantime  “deglace” the bottom of the pan into a smaller pan and scooping out the onions, add salt/pepper to taste and 1tsp of Dijon mustard, some dry white wine bring it to a boil cook it for a few minutes, strain it and serve it aside the onions.

I like to serve it with roasted potatoes (roasted in duck fat) and some Twin Oaks Farm cranberry sauce...

 Best duck ever !!! ...

Do not remove any of the extra duck fat and make sure to save all the left over fat and render it ... it will keep really well in the fridge and will do marvel with spring potatoes ...

Et voila ... Bon appetit ...

Roasted duck

Posted 3/28/2012 9:32pm by Renee Savary.

Easter Eggs with Natural Coloring


Easter is just around the corner and it is time to think "coloring" ..
With just a few simple ingredients you will have a rainbow of eggs ...

 Here is what you need to create your rainbow:

RED
2 cups of beets, grated - 3tbsp white vinegar - 2 cups water

YELLOW to GOLD
3 large handfulls of yellow/brown onion skins - 3tbsp white vinegar - 3 cups water

BLUE
1lb frozen blueberries, crushed - 3 tbsp white vinegar - 2 cups water

Green:
Boiled spinach leaves - 3tbsp of white vinegar - 2 cups of water

Purple
Make a strong hibiscus tea with 2 cups of water then add 3 tbsp of white vinegar

 

Coloring ingredients


Mix combinations of the primary dyes (in separate cups) to make secondary colors : red and yellow for orange, yellow and blue for green, blue and red for violet.

 

Coloring

The vinegar acts as a fixative, without it the dyes won't stick to the eggs.
For uniform color, strain each dye mixture through a cheesecloth or a fine strainer.
For a mottled, tie-dyed or spotty effect, leave all the ingredients in the pans.
Use crayons to make designs on the eggs.

eggs coloring
The longer the eggs remain in the dye, the deeper the color.
For special effects, dip half the egg in one color, the other half in another.


Happy coloring ...

... et voila ...

Posted 3/15/2012 8:29pm by Renee Savary.

Last Sunday I went to help my friend Dawn to split her beehives, well ... help !! ... Let's just say I stayed a good 2ft away and try to generate as much smoke as possible.

To split beehives, you take 4 of the central frames of the hive to split, including the queen, move them into a new empty hive, close it and move it away a few miles for a month or so. It will give the "older" hive time to raise a new queen then you can bring all the hives back together.

It seems fairly simple but it is not, you have thousands and thousands of bees buzzing around, you are kind of suffocating with the smoke (that is when I help) and for the not trained eyes to locate the queen in the middle of the multitude is kind of locating that pin needle in the hay story... ...

But we did it and I am happy to report that after a few days both hives, the new and the old ones, are doing well ...

 Then we came to the farm to look at mines. Last spring I got 3 hives, I still have 2 of them. I have to be honest I am not super comfortable dealing with bees ! I can confront a charging donkey but I am afraid of bees ... go figure !!!

I had not open my hives in several months, I knew they were well sealed by the bees and I did not find a reason why to open them when it was cold or windy or wet ... I did supplement them with some honey/water tea once a week in January and February and I am sure it did help them ...

I am well aware of all the problems the bees are encountering from pesticide to GMO's but I think their worst enemy is us, human, so without pretending saving the bees, I will just let the ones I have at the farm be bees and do their bees business and on my side I will make sure they have enough quality food.

 opening the hive

On this picture we are just opening the first hive and looking at it ...

I am happy to report they are doing wonderful, I was so relieved to see them doing so well. Now the next step is to split my hives, probably in a week or two. Here are some more pictures of our beezy Sunday !!!

frame

me holding a frame ...

frame with nice brood partern

Hive with super installed ...

Go to www.facebook.com/twinoaksfarm for more pictures on my beesy Sunday ....