Some like it fresh

Kasilof family says raising Thanksgiving meal has advantages

Posted: Monday, November 24, 2003

Turkey has been a part of the holiday tradition since the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Mass., back in 1621, and on Nov. 27, individuals, families and groups will sit down to enjoy a meal of well-cooked bird, gravy and all the fixings.

However, not everyone likes to purchase a frozen brick of a bird from the local grocery store.

Many people -- whether to do it the old-fashion way, for health or for a more robust, fresh flavor -- still prefer to raise and slaughter their own Thanksgiving turkey.

"Yep, we've got two turkeys," said Debbie Pearson of Kasilof. "We get them to eat. We do it every year."

The two turkeys -- a variety known as broad-breasted whites -- have been named Tom and Jerry by Pearson's children.

They've been keeping the birds in a small pen behind their log cabin home, fattening them up in preparation for a holiday feast.

"We got them from Echo Lake Feed in June," Pearson said.

The two turkeys actually are the second batch of birds the family has purchased.

"We had some before, but a neighbor's dogs got into them and that was the end of that," she said.

As to why Pearson likes to raise and slaughter her own bird, her reasons were primarily three-fold.

"Well, the kids are in 4-H, so it's a good learning experience," she said.

"We also know what's in it. There's no hormones and other things you get when you buy one from the store. You know where it's been, what it was fed and how it was treated."

Pearson's third reason is, "The meat is much, much better tasting and better for you."

Raising turkeys is no overnight task, though. It takes months, which gives people a chance to see just how charismatic, intelligent and enjoyable a turkey can be.

"Yeah, the turkeys are fun," Pearson said. "They stay close when you're in with them and they follow the kids around. The kids like them."

Some people -- particularly children -- find the time spent rearing is just long enough to bond with the birds, and on slaughtering day what they once called food, they now call friend.

However, that's not the case at the Pearson's place.

"No, no one cries over them being gone," she said. "We're tired of feeding them come time and we like to ease up on chores in winter so we're happy to butcher them. In fact, my two boys -- Dawson and Dalton -- argue over who's going to kill it."

Of course, slaughtering the bird is the easy part -- just a quick swing of the axe. It's the cleaning of the bird that can be a chore.

"It's quite a process," Pearson said. She said first they boil water and dip it in to loosen the feathers. Then you have to pluck it and gut it. "It takes a little while."

However, her daughter, Denali, has volunteered to pluck the bird this year.

"She said she didn't mind feeding them and doesn't mind plucking them," Pearson said. "She just doesn't want any part of killing them."

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