This Thanksgiving, make your bird a heritage bird.


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WHILE THE NEWEST trend of going local with your food is all fine and dandy, if you really want the most flavorful -- and politically correct -- stuff on your plate, you’re going to have to go for heritage breeds. Animals and plants, in other words, that used to be standard fare in the United States but that have since fallen out of favor (and in some cases gone extinct) as agriculture went industrial.

As far as heritage breeds are concerned, the biggest of the big is the heritage turkey. With breed names like Bourbon Red and White Holland, they’re raised outdoors, roam on pasture, and eat the varied diet nature intended.

Unfortunately, heritage turkeys cost more -- a lot more. Since they weren’t bred to pack on weight as quickly as possible, farmers have to feed them for at least 28 weeks, compared with 18 weeks for the usual bird. But aficionados say the flavor is habit-forming. This Thanksgiving, try tasting one yourself. -- Tracy Staton


WHERE TO BUY

D’Artagnan, (800) 327-8246, www.dartagnan.com
Local Harvest’s online shop, www.localharvest.org
Good Shepherd Turkey Ranch, www.reeseturkeys.com or www.heritagefoodsusa.com
IGourmet, (877) 446-8763, www.igourmet.com

PROCRASTINATOR TIP If you’ve waited too long to place an order online, try a farmer in your region. Local Harvest has a searchable database at www.localharvest.org. Or, check with your natural-foods grocer or specialty supermarket. Plus, some Whole Foods Markets have them.

- In the last five years, 60 breeds of livestock, including pigs, cattle, goats, and poultry, have gone extinct.
- In the last 15 years, 190 breeds have gone extinct.
- When a breed goes extinct, the unique genetic traits that set that breed apart from other breeds is lost forever.
- To truly be considered a heritage breed, the animal must have a unique set of genetic traits and be raised on a sustainable/organic farm.
- In the United States, 83 percent of dairy cows are Holsteins and only five breeds make up all the herds used in most cases; 60 percent of cattle come from one of three breeds: Hereford, Angus, or Simmental; and 75 percent of all U.S. pork comes from one of three pig breeds.

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DOING THE NUMBERS

272 MILLION - The number of turkeys raised in 2007 in the United States

86 POUNDS - Weight of biggest turkey ever raised

2O MPH - A turkey’s average running speed (if it doesn’t weigh 86 pounds)

1621 - Year the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in America

1863 - Year President Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday

4,500 - The number of calories the average person consumes during Thanksgiving dinner

UNTOLD MILLIONS - The number of overstuffed, sleep-deprived revelers who take a nap on Thanksgiving, with football blaring in the background