Finding Tom Turkey

Thanksgiving Turkeys in Toronto
Finding Tom Turkey

Q: Why did the turkey cross the road?
A: Because he knew how to—he was a free range turkey

Free Range: A method of farming where the animals are not kept in cages but are allowed to roam freely and feed on grass. Not to be confused with free run turkeys who are free to wander around inside an enclosed structure, such as a barn.

If you are thinking about a Thanksgiving bird, you might be wondering about free run, free range, organic or frozen, special order, the butcher, delivery or supermarket DIY.

Of course, we have some answers to your questions and a few places where we know you can find what you need.

First, let’s clarify the options. Besides free range and free run, there are organic and naturally raised turkeys, usually sold through a butcher or specialty shop. Certified organic farms do not allow any pesticides or fertilizers, hormones or antibiotics in the animals’ feed and the soil has to be approved for three years to receive the ‘stamp’. (Note that some small farms choose not to get certified because of the expense and the ‘three year rule’.) Animals raised in these environments are called ‘naturally raised’ or ‘traditionally farmed’.

You can sometimes find frozen free range or free run turkeys at the supermarket, but if you are looking to buy fresh, you should go early next week as that is when they will be in and you’ll have more choice in sizes. The supermarket variety are usually from Ontario or Quebec. 

Our preference is always to buy local, and since there are lots of great farms in Ontario, we’re going to our favourite local butcher and making sure the turkey we order grew up close to home. With so many good butchers in the T-Dot, you shouldn’t have any trouble, but here are a few of our faves:

The Healthy Butcher is located uptown at Avenue and Eglinton and downtown on Queen West. Besides its amazing selection of organic meats and ready made meals, the service is excellent and the staff is very knowledgeable. Browse around for some additions to your feast because they sell more than just the meat.

Meat on the Beach (guess where this is) sells the best selection of naturally raised free range turkeys in the beach—all hormone and antibiotic free. They are so fresh you’ll want to watch out for feathers. Check out their delish homemade gravy and stuffing (of course you can say you made it, heating up counts). In the West End, try Bloor Meat Market on Bloor West for organic meats and decent prices.

Cumbrae’s is another excellent spot where you can splurge on a top notch “Bronze Turkey”. These dark feathered birds are a heritage breed, only available at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and apparently only available at Cumbrae’s. They are a little bit more costly but the flavour is apparently more rich (but not gamey) than the typical white bird that we are used to.

Last but not least, the place where many a foodie will be ordering their bird this year, is Fresh From the Farm. The farms they are referring to are Mennonite and Amish farms where animals are raised the same way they have been forever, naturally, with no pesticides and no hormones. Order online and pick up at their east end Donlands location. 

If you don’t want to leave the house to order your bird, try Beretta Organic Farms. You can order online and they’ll deliver for free with any purchase over $150. Turkey orders start October 8, so think about stocking up on some other items and have the turkey delivered to your door along with some extra meat for the freezer. Now to find someone who will cook it…

Finally, if you’ve left it late and are scrambling to pick something up next Saturday, get yourself downtown to the St Lawrence Market, (but go early) where you can find a good bird at White House Meats.

And once you’ve got the bird in hand, remember, those guests of yours can bring a veggie or two. It is never the hostess’ job to cook the entire harvest. Delegate and celebrate.

We wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving from our families to yours.

How to Find


Healthy Butcher
(416) 674-2642
565 Queen St. West
298 Eglinton Ave. West

Bloor Meat Market
(416) 767-2105
2283 Bloor St. West

Meat on the Beach
(416) 690-1228
1860 Queen Street East    

Fresh from the Farm
(416) 422-3276
350 Donlands Ave. 

481 Church St. (416) 923-5600
1636 Bayview Ave. (416) 485-5620

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Fresh from the Farm
Fresh from the Farm

Tested by Minnow H., Toronto
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First published 2008.10.02

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