Sure, stuffing and sweet potatoes and green bean casserole are all delicious. But we all know that when Thanksgiving rolls around, turkey is the real star of the show. It is nicknamed Turkey Day, after all!
As the demand for local, chemical-free meats increases, local farmers are doing their best to keep up with the trend. Just ask Armand Bechard, who owns Bechard Family Farm (13700 Athens Rd., Conway, 417-589-4152) with his wife, Teddi. “This year is the first year we’re raising 100 extra turkeys for another grass-fed meat producer in the bootheel,” Bechard says. “We have 225 or so for the year.”
The Bechards get the turkeys when they’re one day old. Next they keep them in a brooder house for six weeks or so to control their environment, mostly by adding heat. “During the first couple of weeks they need it to be 89 to 95 degrees,” Bechard says. “At that point, their immune systems are beginning to develop, so it’s important to not put them out in the elements too soon.” After the turkeys are old enough—which is roughly around six weeks old—they head to the pasture, where they roam free and eat all the grass and bugs they want. “We supplement their diet with some all-natural, non-GMO grain,” Bechard says. “That’s about 30 percent of what they eat.” After the turkeys are around 16 weeks old, they’re processed and prepared for customers.
Bechard says there are many benefits to pasture-raised turkey, one being their all-natural, chemical-free diet. Another is the taste, which Bechard says is much better. “We’ve owned our farm for 15 years now, and I haven’t eaten store-bought turkey since then,” Bechard says. “There is no comparison in the taste and texture of the meat.” And when it’s time to put the bird in the oven, you don’t have to worry about defrosting the birds you get fresh from the Bechards. “We refrigerate them or pack them on ice, depending on the customer and the pick-up situation,” Bechard says. “Most of the time, customers come and pick them up at the farm.”
Bechard has a booth at Farmers Market of the Ozarks, but at press time, he wasn’t sure they would still be there in November. Call Bechard Family Farm or go online to check for availability. “We will have turkeys up until Thanksgiving, unless they’re sold out,” Bechard says.