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Where to find it: Turkey talk 

North Carolina is the second largest producer of turkeys in the U.S. and, at one time, Union County was the top turkey-producing county in the country. Butterball LLC operates the world's largest turkey-processing plant in Mount Olive, N.C. In other words, we have locally produced turkeys here. But only a small number of independently owned and operated turkey farms exist in the state, and only a handful of these breed heritage turkeys. As it turns out, turkeys are difficult to breed, especially if raised organically, since these animals are prone to sickness.

The benefit of cooking a natural turkey is the flavor, an element lacking in commercially processed turkeys. The benefit of heritage breeds, such as Bourbon Red, Jersey Buff and Narragansett, is the vastly superior flavor.

Most of the turkeys grown on local and regional farms were reserved for Thanksgiving dinner before Labor Day. One farmer told me she recommends people call when school starts mid-August. Many of the locally grown turkeys are available through CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture). Memberships for 2012 CSAs are currently underway. Some local CSAs are listed here: www.localharvest.org.

In addition to farm turkeys are lean wild turkeys, a population that has rebounded in North Carolina during the past 10 years. The hunting season for turkeys in North Carolina begins in April and ends in May.

Some area grocery stores carry all-natural fresh turkeys. Trader Joe's is currently taking orders for kosher turkeys, as well. By Thanksgiving 2012, Whole Foods will be open in SouthPark. They carry a line of value, natural, organic and kosher turkeys, as well as heritage turkeys.

Looking for a food you can't find? Or do you know of other food items unique to the Q.C.? Whether it's regional foods or international, talk to me: tricia.childress@creativeloafing.com or 704-522-8334, extension 136.

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