Thanksgiving is all about food, family, being thankful, and foooooood. My husband and I are thankful everyday for our animals, food, and the life that we live. I have said and continue to say that nothing makes you appreciate and be truly thankful for food more than raising your own animals you eat. This year we decided to raise our own turkey to take down to my family in PA for Thanksgiving, as well as extras for big dinners throughout the year and for grinding. Just like the chickens, the turkeys were brought to our farm at 1 day old in June, and were cared for everyday until they were processed by us the weekend before Thanksgiving.
Raising turkeys for meat is really no different than raising chickens. They are cared for and have the same heat requirements before they feather out, are fed the same high protein feed, and process very much the same with the main difference being that they're bigger. The hens ended up with a dressed weight ranging from 11.5-14 pounds, while the toms dressed out between 17-20 pounds. Being that they're Broad Breasted Whites, they most certainly could have gotten a whole lot bigger. But, just like the chickens, these guys ranged so much that they didn't put weight on as fast as they would have if they had been restricted. This was perfectly fine with me, because even the 20 pound tom ended up being more than big enough for my family's Thanksgiving.
When we processed the turkeys, I cleaned and saved the neck, heart, and gizzard for the giblets, and the feet were dehydrated for dog treats in leu of using them for stock (I have so much chicken stock I have no need for turkey too). One of the toms got pretty banged up by the plucker so he was skinned and ground up into twelve glorious pounds of burger and packaged. I love beef, but I must admit I am a sucker for a good turkey burger, and am actually quite a big fan of turkey sausage as well.
Despite the fact that the bird cooking ahead of schedule caused a bit of a mad scramble to prepare the sides, he was tender, moist, and absolutely delicious. I am proud of my food everyday even when it's just a meal for my husband and I. But, being in charge of the hero at Thanksgiving Dinner and sharing a bird that you raised with your own two hands from one day old to death with fourteen other people is a real proud moment. It is also a tradition that I look forward to continuing each year.
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