Farmer credits historical roots, natural care for tasty turkeys - KCTV5

Farmer credits historical roots, natural care for tasty turkeys

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LINDSBORG, KS (KCTV) -

Not all turkeys are created equal. The true Heritage Thanksgiving birds in Lindsborg, KS, have roots that can be traced way back to the 19th century.

"If you ask any kindergartner to draw a turkey, this is what they will draw," farmer Frank Reese Jr. said.

The frozen turkeys people typically buy at the stores today have all white feathers and are so fat they can barely walk. But the purebred Heritage birds are not a regular supermarket variety.

"The bronze turkey has always been the king of the poultry world. It was bred for the beautiful copper sheen that you see on these turkeys," Reese said.

Reese is a fourth generation Kansas farmer. Some have called him the godfather of turkeys.

"I love their beauty, I love their history," he said. "After you've lived with them this long, you learn their language, you know what they're saying."

The birds are talkative. When someone gobbles at them, they gobble right back.

For 60 years, Reese has been raising Heritage turkeys.

"My turkeys were on the front cover of the New York Times," he said.

He's built an all-natural turkey operation at his Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch in Lindsborg, about three hours west of Kansas City. People across the country buy his unique birds because they are the real deal.

"The bronze turkeys, I can trace them back here in Kansas to 1917, when Norman Kadaush's mother got eggs as a wedding gift," he said. "And before that they were in Pennsylvania, so I know them back to about 1880."

His Heritage birds are fed an all-vegetable diet and grow as nature intended.

"My turkeys grow at a normal rate of 24 to 28 weeks. The industry today can get a 20-pound turkey in 12 weeks. They have literally cut it in half through genetic engineering," Reese said.

He sold more than 8,000 turkeys this month across the country to customers who want to taste the rich flavor of a true turkey. And there's another difference between his birds and others sold around the country.

"My turkeys can still fly. They can jump and be physical. The modern turkey can barely walk, let alone get up on a tree," Reese said.

Reese's turkeys are sold at local Hen House supermarkets. They do cost more at about $6 a pound. People can also order a Heritage bird at the Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch website.

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