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“You’ve got to know exactly what it is you’re getting and understand why you’re getting it. Someone who’s getting a 39-cent frozen Butterball from a chain market would not understand the heritage bird.”
— Jill Moorhead, marketing director, The Hills Market
Supporting local producers was also a factor for New Seasons Market, a 12-store independent based in Portland, Ore., in adding pasture-raised turkeys from two area farms to its Thanksgiving lineup this year.
“I always try to source things as close to home as possible,” said Alan Hummel, director of meat and seafood.
The local birds, which retail for $4.99 to $5.49 per pound, sold well in preorders. Hummel said this is because local products have “kind of been the bread and butter of our business.”
New Seasons Market also has offered free-range, organic and heirloom turkeys from Diestel since 2000. “We sell them every year, and we sell a tremendous amount,” said Hummel.
Price may be a factor in the Diestel birds’ popularity. Retailing for $1.99 to $4.99 per pound, Hummel said the chain tried to keep this year’s prices comparable to last year’s for consumers, despite cost increases on the supply side. “We’ve kind of held our ground to keep a really high-quality bird at an affordable price so we can reach out to many more consumers,” said Hummel.
On the opposite coast, cost is probably not a driver for customers at Eli’s Manhattan, a specialty food store in New York, where organic turkeys sell for $7.99 per pound and heritage birds go for $9.99 per pound. Eli’s purchases its heritage Bourbon Reds through Heritage Foods USA, a wholesaler based in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“We teach customers about why they are so special, and how they’re helping with preserving these breeds by purchasing the products,” said Marc Reyes, Eli’s head butcher.
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Retailers agreed education is important for marketing sustainable turkeys. Hummel said New Seasons Market emphasizes the local farmers when talking to customers. “We talk about our partnership with them. We talk about the families and how they raise the product.”
At The Hills Market, representatives from Tea Hills Organic Farms came by in early November for a tasting of its different turkeys. “We always like having the producers be able to talk directly to the consumer,” said Moorhead.
The demo helped drive preorder sales of the newer turkey options. “I’d say probably half of the orders that we had from Tea Hills Farms came from that tasting,” said Moorhead.
Jimbo’s planned to do a tasting of the Diestel birds the weekend before Thanksgiving and had promoted its sustainable turkeys through in-store brochures and its newsletter, but satisfied customers may be the most effective advertising.
“A lot of it is just word of mouth. And it’s worked out well for us,” said Garcia.