Bigger birds are back this Thanksgiving

  • Anne Diemand Bucci with her family’s pasture-raised turkeys at Diemand Farm in Wendell. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Pasture-raised turkeys at Diemand Farm in Wendell. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Pasture-raised turkeys flock together at Diemand Farm in Wendell. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 11/24/2021 7:00:28 PM
Modified: 11/24/2021 7:00:13 PM

The turkey farms that scaled back the size of their birds last year as a result of the COVID-19 public health crisis say customers in 2021 are back to buying bigger birds, indicating a return to larger Thanksgiving gatherings and more money in Americans’ pockets.

Travel restrictions, supply chain disruptions and social safety measures threw an unprecedented curveball at poultry farms a year ago, but across the country turkey orders have returned to requests for 18 to 24 pounds and larger, in contrast to last year’s average of 12 to 14 pounds. And some farms in this area have sold out of gobblers, reporting that their orders more closely resemble those of pre-pandemic times.

Anne Diemand Bucci, who co- owns Diemand Farm in Wendell with he r siblings, said most of her customers ordered larger birds than last year, when harvested turkeys averaged about 9 pounds, as opposed to 12 to roughly 30 pounds. She said the Quebec hatchery from which she buys poults (young birds) kept postponing the hatch date, meaning many of the birds were still too small to be harvested for Thanksgiving. Diemand Bucci said her farm typically takes Thanksgiving orders into the third week of November, but this year the farm had to cut off orders on Oct. 31.

“Our customers are amazing, they really are. I get blown away by the kindness and the understanding of 99.9% of them,” she said.

Diemand Bucci said some customers — for a variety of reasons — again requested smaller turkeys, which she joked look more like chickens to her.

“We love what we do, and we love that we’re able to provide people with a good-quality food,” she said.

Little Creek Farm, started in New Salem by Joshua Mason and his family in December 2019, is in its second year of selling Thanksgiving turkeys. Mason said the farm sold all 100 gobblers, increased from 60 last year.

“We’re gradually trying to do more and more,” he said, adding that his birds ranged from 13 to 26 pounds this year.

The farm’s turkeys were ready for pickup starting at 2 p.m. on Nov. 22. The birds are $4 per pound and the farm accepts cash only.

Little Creek Farm also raises black Angus cows and meat pigs and sells fall flowers. Mason mentioned his family will start selling Christmas greens, such as wreaths, starting on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

Diane Rollins, who has co-owned D&R Farm in Hampden for 9½ years with husband, Robert, said the business sold out early this year, and slaughtering took place last week. Rollins said the farm sold 250 turkeys this year, up from 200 last year. Her business sells birds 8 pounds and bigger, but this year’s average size was 18 to 20 pounds. However, she said, one turkey reached 47 pounds, which Rollins said can feed up to 35 people. At $4.25 per pound, this bird costs at least $199.75.  All the turkeys are stored in a refrigerator until pickup.

“We never freeze our birds,” Rollins said.

She said D&R Farm also raises chickens and ducks, processing 300 meat birds per week. The ducks are raised in Sunderland through a partnership with Reed Farm. She and her husband started their farm, she said, because “we wanted to know how our birds were being fed and taken care of and we wanted to know where our birds came from.”

As holiday cooks take to the kitchen, Butterball experts are available to answer cooking questions by phone, text, online chat, email, the Butterball Skill for Amazon Alexa, Facebook, Instagram and — new in 2021 — TikTok.

Butterball’s seasonal hotline, the Turkey Talk Line (1-800-288-8372 by phone or 844-877-3456 by text), is up and running. The seasonal hotline, which started more than 40 years ago, also has Spanish-speaking experts available for assistance.

Reach Domenic Poli at dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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