Let’s Talk About Your Turkey: An Essay
By Jesse Griffiths
The turkey has evolved with us, through domestication, to become arguably the most profound food tradition celebrated in this country. We remember — even if we eat it only once a year — what it tastes like sliced atop the earthy canvas of mashed potatoes and gravy with bottles of splurge wines with family, or in a next-day gumbo or a mile-high sandwich. With its singular flavor and sheer American-ness, this plump giant of the holiday table is a culinary tradition that is not going anywhere.
As a hunter, butcher and owner of a restaurant that subscribes to a philosophy of nose-to-tail cooking and eating, I hold the life of every animal in high regard. Typically I’ve seen the animal in its home, alive in its defining environment. And even though this intimate connection isn’t necessarily available (or even desirable) to everyone, it’s essential as a home cook — and as a human — to take a moment to learn about the provenance of your Thanksgiving turkey.
Armed with the intel from clear labeling and expert butchers behind the counter, families can definitively know what kind of feed the bird has been given, whether they were allowed access to the outdoors and were cared for by a conscientious farmer. While turkeys raised in less-than-optimal situations may appear to be equal, I prefer a responsibly raised bird for my Thanksgiving centerpiece.
These choices allow me to celebrate consciously, a not-so-ironic gesture on a day of thanks and feeding those I love. And since it is a day of thanks, in addition to thanking the cook, please consider thanking the farmer, and the turkey, too.
Jesse Griffiths is a hunter, butcher, and chef/owner of Dai Due, the Austin-based butcher shop and restaurant named one of America’s Best New Restaurants by Bon Appétit.