Whether you're looking to minimize time spent at the grocery store or ready to try a smaller bird for your feast, here's what you need to know to shop smart.

Thanksgiving is coming, but you might already be rethinking how you shop for this year's holiday bird. "Thanksgiving is the largest at-home cooking event in the United States, so needless to say, grocery stores are very popular destinations leading into the holiday. This year especially, shopping online gives you one less thing to have to think about," says Jessica Mosner, executive vice president of marketing for Mosner Family Brands, a Bronx based purveyor of high quality meat. Instead of braving the crowds of shoppers and ending up with a standard frozen supermarket turkey, consider some of the many other options available online.

The biggest advantage to buying poultry online is the sheer number of choices you have. Not only can you choose from different sizes, you can get an organic, free-range, heritage, or wild turkey. You could also pick a smoked or fully cooked bird. Planning a smaller gathering? Then this might be the year to try a duck or another kind of poultry, such as quail or squab. Another advantage to shopping for your Thanksgiving bird online is that you can order ahead and be sure you're getting exactly you want. Here are some things to consider when you're deciding whether to order turkey or other poultry online for Thanksgiving 2020.

Fresh or Frozen?

While fresh may be most desirable, a frozen turkey tends to be a bit more economical and less expensive to ship. Fresh birds are generally shipped overnight, and that will cost anywhere from $15 to $60 depending on the purveyor and the destination.


Organic is one way to ensure your turkey is antibiotic free. But is it worth the price? Mosner weighs in, saying, "Our general rule of thumb as it pertains to organic and other specific certifications, is that it offers great assurance of the way the turkey was raised, however it does not always indicate quality of the meat or eating experience. Furthermore, organic turkey is not always easy to find, and is certainly more expensive, so if you know what other claims are important to you, you can shop without having those certifications."

Antibiotic and Hormone-Free 

Mosner points to a few important things to look for when sourcing turkeys namely, "That it includes no antibiotic or hormone use ever, that they're humanely-raised without crowding in a stress-free environment, have 24-hour access to 100 percent vegetarian feed and water, and that they are raised by family farmers who use sustainable farming techniques."


More than 10 different breeds are classified as "heritage." They are raised more traditionally, meeting standards set by the American Poultry Association. Unlike conventional turkeys, heritage birds are pasture raised, not bred to grow quickly, and they have longer legs and wings. According to Mosner, "Heritage turkeys are a nice option for those looking for a unique eating experience—but expect that there will be less breast meat and a more intense turkey flavor." A top purveyor of heritage turkeys is Heritage Foods. They offer eight different heritage breed turkeys, ranging in size from 10 to 22 pounds.

Smaller Options

Thanksgiving may look a bit different this year as people opt for more intimate gatherings. Because of this, Mosner Family Brands adjusted their offerings to provide smaller sized turkeys. "We typically estimate about a one and a half pounds of turkey per person, so if feeding a family of six, a 10-12 pound turkey should be perfect," says Mosner. If you just can't tackle the whole bird, they and other purveyors will be offering select turkey parts such as drumsticks and turkey breast, too.

If you're open to serving something other than turkey, duck is a strong contender. Jennifer Reichardt, chief operating officer of Liberty Duck, a family duck farm based in Sonoma, says, "Duck has great flavor on its own, no need to do any sort of brining, braising, basting, or frying or any sort of the 'tricks' you often see around the holiday." Ducks are significantly smaller than turkeys with an average weight of about six pounds, and they serve four to six people depending upon how many side dishes you're making. Adds Reichardt, "Whole duck can be tricky as the breast and leg meat cooks differently, but following Roast Duck 101 you're sure to get fantastic results." Liberty Duck suggests not stuffing the duck since there isn't a huge cavity space, and instead cooking onions in the pan around the duck. "They will soak up all the duck fat rendering and be absolutely delicious." You could also make Cornbread Stuffing or cook almost any stuffing recipe in a casserole.

Other "small is beautiful" options are elegant birds like squab, quail, or even Cornish game hens, all of which can be stuffed. Count on two quail per person. A smaller 12-ounce squab will feed one person while larger squab of 16-18 ounces may feed up to two. You'll find a good selection of squab and quail at D'Artagnan as well as organic, heirloom, wild, or natural turkeys and smoked turkey breast.


If you'd rather focus your efforts on the must-have side dishes and leave the cooking the bird to someone else, consider Nueskes for smoked turkey, smoked turkey breast, or smoked duck breast. For fully cooked roasted, deep fried or smoked turkey as well as smoked turkey breast or legs, Williams-Sonoma offers it all, along with all the sides as well as complete Thanksgiving meals.

Shop Ahead

If you're planning to buy online, don't wait until the last minute. Mosner encourages consumers to place orders online between now and early November. "This year, we expect more people to be cooking for smaller gatherings at home, so it is better to confirm your order ahead of time being that there are a finite number of fresh turkeys available." At Liberty Duck, Reichardt says that whole ducks are allocated for the months of November and December, so the day you buy one will be the day your order ships.


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