Montanans Know: These are the Best Birds for Thanksgiving Turkey
Time to pick out your turkey, Montana.
The recent time change helped convince my brain that Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching. That means turkey time. On other holidays we'll sometimes do prime rib or ham, maybe a few scallops or a lobster tail on New Year's Eve... but on Thanksgiving, it's a given that there has to be a turkey. A good bird, seasoned just right and cooked to perfection is so good. Montanans-in-the-know get their turkeys from what are essentially street vendors.
Find a colony turkey.
Turkeys are not a big commodity in Montana. Six states produce almost 70% of the US turkeys, with the most coming from Minnesota, North Carolina, and Arkansas. Other heartland and southern states round out the mega-farms that churn out millions of turkeys annually according to the USDA Sept 2023 report. The relative handful of turkeys raised in Montana come largely from a few Hutterite farms in the middle of the state. This is where you want to get your turkey.
Eat local turkey. Your mouth will thank you.
The colony turkeys are simply better. They look better, they smell better, and most importantly, they taste better. Over the years I've cooked plenty of Butterballs and other "8% water" mass-produced birds, but the Hutterite turkeys are always so good. They're not pumped full of steroids or other nasty drugs either, which is nice.
If you're not sure where to find one, just look for their trucks. Most of the colonies don't appear to have much of an online presence (the whole "avoid technology" thing, we assume), but they usually set up in parking lots around town this time of year. They typically have lots of freshly frozen turkeys and some that are not frozen as we get closer to Thanksgiving.
Search your local Facebook community pages for "Hutterite turkeys" and you'll likely get plenty of results. In the Billings area, Mountain View Colony seems to be our hookup. They raise around 3,000 birds annually on their farm near Commence, MT wrote the Great Falls Tribune (paywalled), and their trucks are frequently in Billings. Maybe you've seen their eggs at Walmart and other grocery stores in Montana.
A note on the brine!
Most Butterballs and other store-bought turkeys are already pre-brined, so be cautious with additional brines or salty rubs. The colony turkeys are not pre-brined, which in my opinion gives at-home chefs a little more flexibility on how they'll season their turkey.
What's your secret tip for a perfect turkey? Drop a comment on Facebook, reach out on the app, or send me an email. Michael.Foth@Townsquaremedia.com