Turkey shortage unlikely, but 'feasters' are gobbling up the bird

KENTWOOD, LA (WVUE) - Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and some savvy chefs are already ordering their guest of honor for the feast.

Iverstine's Family Farm in Kentwood raises two types of turkey each year. This year, their flock of 500 features the broad-breasted white turkey, typically found in freezer cases, and the more traditional-looking heritage breed.

"We start our first batch in March. We try to get our birds in twice a month, that way we can stage them out, that way we're not grouping them in too big of groups, so they have plenty of room. We get them in as one-day-old poults," said Galen Iverstine, the owner and chief farmer of the pasture.

Iverstine spends the better part of a year raising his flock until they're ready for harvest, usually a few weeks out from Thanksgiving.

This year, he's already getting orders for the pasture-raised birds.

"As far as seeing a higher demand, we have seen an earlier demand this year. Typically we don't start seeing a demand for our birds until after Halloween is over and you get that first cold snap, but we were able to do a lot of pre-orders a month before that this year," Iverstine said.

Nationally, rumors of a possible turkey shortage have run rampant, but according to the National Turkey Federation, the stock of turkeys for Thanksgiving is flush, despite the slaughter of thousands of birds mid-spring following a brief avian flu scare in the Mid-West.

Iverstine doesn't have to worry about those problems, but while he was hoping for a flock of 700, he was only able to procure 500 chicks from his hatchery in Iowa. But it hasn't stopped the fans of the fresh local birds from seeking out the one-of-a-kind flavors.

"People are wanting to go back to older flavors. Our broad-breasted whites have plenty of flavor, too, because they're all raised on the same pasture eating the same feeds - grasses, grubs and worms, things like that. The texture is gonna be a little bit different on the heritage breeds, I always say if you get a 12-pound heritage turkey, you're getting 12 pounds of dark meat," Iverstine said.

Locally, grocers like Rouse's said they're stocked for Thanksgiving and don't expect to have any shortage of the holiday bird.

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