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Did your turkey get to cross train?

Wild turkey Heritage Foods USA
One of the 10,000 turkeys raised each year by Heritage Foods

We all know a free-range lifestyle is better than what’s offered Butterballs, but just how much exercise does your Thanksgiving turkey get? More than a trot but less than a 10K? And like us, do they need motivation?

“Turkeys have a desire to exercise,” says Patrick Martins, the founder of Heritage Foods USA. “It certainly makes them healthier if they do.”

Martins’s turkeys, which are raised for conscious city purveyors such as Ottomanelli’s, Forager’s Market, and Dean & Deluca’s, get to climb trees and fly to the edges of the large farm. They also browse for food and roost instinctively, which means they wrap a talon around a tree and fall asleep. “The only time their movement is impeded is when they are giving birth and need to stay near the baby. Other than that, the birds can engage in whatever their god-given instinct is,” explains Martins.

All this exercise leads means that Martins’s birds don’t grow as fast as caged ones: Heritage birds are six months old when they show up at a Thanksgiving feast, whereas Butterballs are just three months.

We don’t know how many calories all this turkey trotting burns or what the BMI is of a heritage bird, but the active lifestyle means they don’t need the antibiotic infusion that butterballs require. And free-range birds are also a whole lot leaner than those not permitted exercise (Butterballs don’t walk around much, fly, or leave the barn). So a fit and healthy bird is also healthier for those sitting around the table.

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