Big year for free-range T-Day turkeys

November 17, 2010 (WATERMAN, Ill.)

The free range birds have become a bit of a Thanksgiving tradition in the Chicago area. This year, the weather's been perfect for birds at Ho-Ka, which has been around for 77 years.

"We've got our large Tom Turkey flock here. These guys are going to eviscerate out over thirty pounds," said Tom Klopfenstein, manager Ho-Ka Turkey Farm."That's a big turkey."

Last year was cool, so the turkeys didn't get big and fat. But 2010 has been warm and mild.

"Very few storms. Not much mud out on the ranges to deal with and they could eat every day. So they done well," said Klopfenstein.

Ho-Ka's 67,000 birds will be sold fresh and only in butcher shops. And they will cost much more than frozen supermarket turkeys.

"Every one of these birds has been fed a little differently than the chain store turkeys. We feed them a slower ... we get a slower gain. They taste a little better and they are absolutely fresh," said Klopfenstein.

And those turkeys can predict the weather. "Absolutely. They sense a storm coming in and they pick up their eating tremendously," Klopfenstein said. "They'll eat in a given day just before a major storm fifty to seventy five percent more than they normally would."

A good year for turkeys -- on the table.

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