After last year’s debacle, Vicky Konstantinidis wasn’t about to leave the centerpiece of her Thanksgiving dinner to chance.
In 2017, the Long Island resident had been a little late to place her turkey order to Feisty Acres, a North Fork farm known for its organic, heritage-breed gobblers.
At $9.99 per pound, they’re about 10 times what your average supermarket bird goes for — and they’re so sought-after that customers are asked to put down a $55 deposit to hold their reservation.
“It’s the only turkey I’d eat,” Konstantinidis tells The Post.
While she did ultimately wind up getting her two birds — at 6 to 12 pounds, Feisty’s turkeys run smaller than the average supermarket kind — the stress was real, Konstantinidis says. So this year, “I ordered mine in August.” The 50-year-old expects to spend more than $200 on her order, and says it’s totally worth the money and hassle.
Regular old Butterball turkeys just won’t cut it for home cooks of elevated tastes, who prefer their gobblers organic, pasture-raised and in-demand. Heritage-breed turkeys are particularly popular: As heritage-turkey farmer Amanda Andrews puts it, some of the historic species resemble “what, like, the Roosevelts would’ve had on their table,” and reliably sell out at her Union Square Greenmarket stand. Supermarkets are seeing the rush too: At Fairway, heritage bird sales have risen 10 percent every year since they were introduced in 2009.
Fans of such prestigious birds can wind up spending hundreds on their Thanksgiving meat — but they’re willing to pay the price to avoid the genetically modified, large-breasted and too-young birds from the supermarket.
“They’re all breast, no flavor and so dry,” Konstantinidis says of the mass-produced birds.
By comparison, pricier turkeys are less top-heavy and live several weeks longer, allowing them to develop more flavor, says Matty Boudreau, executive chef of Preston House & Hotel in Riverhead, LI.
“The balance of muscle [and] fat tissue is significant,” says Boudreau. He’s bought his pasture-raised gobblers from Browder’s Birds in the North Fork for years, and says they have “perfect” leg-to-breast proportions.
But it’s not mere anatomy that makes those $8-per-pound turkeys so special, says Boudreau, who plans to baste them in local butter and top them with shaved white truffles at his restaurant this Thanksgiving. “You can taste that the bird lived a good life,” he says.
That’s important to top-tier turkey buyers, and sellers know it: Fairway’s website, for example, claims its heritage turkeys spend their growing season grazing and “flirting” with flockmates.
But here, farms have the edge. Many of their customers will happily travel to check out their turkeys in person.
“It really does make a difference,” says Browder’s customer Sherry Thirlby, 68, of seeing her meat in its natural habitat. She says she’d much rather spend well over $100 on a turkey she can background-check than blindly buy a cheaper one at the supermarket.
Konstantinidis agrees. Over the past two years, she’s visited Feisty Acres no fewer than five times to bond with the birds she’s buying.
“I saw them in the wild, running around,” says Konstantinidis, who lives an hour from the farm. “They all ran toward me. They were just so beautiful.”
“If you haven’t ordered by Labor Day, you’re s–t out of luck.”
Exclusivity is another selling point for the season’s top turkeys. To bird connoisseurs, a small flock suggests that the turkeys had plenty of room to roam and graze on grains, grass and insects. And to get your hands on a rare bird, you’d better plan ahead.
“If you haven’t ordered by Labor Day, you’re s–t out of luck,” Boudreau says of the organic turkeys at Browder’s. (That’s especially true this year, as a fox attack whittled the flock down to a mere 50 birds.)
“There’s usually a waiting list,” says Andrews of the birds she raises at Tamarack Hollow Farm in Barre, Vermont. This year, she has just 156 turkeys. Many have already been snapped up by repeat customers, and she expects her Union Square stand to be mobbed for the remaining poultry.
Still, there’s hope for fans of fancy birds. Abra Morawiec, the owner of Feisty Acres, says that although her turkeys are sold out, she may have a few extra in the week before Thanksgiving. She expects there will likely be a long line for the “first come, first serve” birds at the Greenmarket in Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza on Saturday and in Union Square on Wednesday.
“[The] market officially opens at 8 a.m. [but] people definitely start showing up around 7:30 a.m.,” she says.
Just remember: You’re up against folks like Konstantinidis.
“Our regular customers know that if they want something special, they have to come early,” Morawiec says.
Additional reporting by Hannah Frishberg