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Tomorrow (Feb 15), Salt Lake City will introduce a first-in-the-nation digital tool to encourage people go grow gardens.

Basically, the tool interfaces with city maps. Residents will be able to click on their property and get an estimate about how much food that might expect to grow.

The tool is part of a bigger initiative, Salt Lake City’s Food Policy Task Force, that seeks to find better ways to produce and distribute food to help solve hunger problems.

The Salt Lake Tribune has this article about the new tool.

Published in Farm And Garden
Monday, 28 November 2011 17:37

A $200 Turkey?

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article by Geoffrey A. Fowler on heritage breed turkeys. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy defines heritage breed turkeys as follows:

Heritage turkeys are defined by the historic, range-based production system in which they are raised. Turkeys must meet all of the following criteria to qualify as a Heritage turkey:

1. Naturally mating: the Heritage Turkey must be reproduced and genetically maintained through natural mating, with expected fertility rates of 70-80%.

2. Long productive lifespan: the Heritage Turkey must have a long productive lifespan. Breeding hens are commonly productive for 5-7 years and breeding toms for 3-5 years.

Slow growth rate: the Heritage Turkey must have a slow to moderate rate of growth. Today’s heritage turkeys reach a marketable weight in 26 – 28 weeks, giving the birds time to develop a strong skeletal structure and healthy organs prior to building muscle mass. This growth rate is identical to that of the commercial varieties of the first half of the 20th century.

The article (available here) references the latest turkey census numbers gathered by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. The census shows a nearly 700% increase between 1997 and 2006 in the number of heritage turkeys raised for breeding in the U.S. The growing popularity of heritage turkeys is a great example of the interest in local, sustainably produced food.

The article briefly touches on the economics of heritage turkeys and includes these excerpts:

“Heritage turkeys, which include eight breeds certified by the American Poultry Association, take about twice as long to grow as commercial turkeys and cost about three times as much to raise.”

At retail, a 14-pound heritage bird can cost $100 or more.? Says Mr. Reese: “It is the difference between feeding an athlete and feeding a couch potato."

Some diners are turned off by the heritage turkey's slightly gamy flavor. But most sing its praises. Sam Perryman, a 26-year-old health-care administrator in Oakland, Calif., is a vegetarian for environmental reasons, but last year made an exception for a heritage turkey. "Thanksgiving is an important holiday for us, and we wanted to maintain the traditional approach" for nonvegetarian family, he says.?

After doing some research, he settled on a 23-pound Bourbon Red raised nearby that cost nearly $200. The grocer "knew everything about this bird—they probably even knew when its birthday was," he says.?

It’s exciting to see individuals and local companies find success in providing local, sustainable food products people want. Unfortunately a common misperception is that locally grown food is limited to niche products that are more expensive than food grown on industrial farms and sold at big box retail stores. I don’t begrudge anyone their success but a $200 thanksgiving turkey is out of reach for most people and feeds that misperception.

People are attracted to sensational stories and news providers give us what we want. The local food movement has a lot of work to do to overcome misperceptions about the cost of locally produced food. Here’s a link to a study by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Iowa State University taking this issue head-on.


Do you buy locally grown food? If so, why? And if not, why not?

Published in Turkeys

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