A look at different birds to serve this year

Shelly McNulty not only wanted to raise poultry on her family's small farm near Baltimore, but she wanted birds that had never been genetically altered.

Her brood of 24 pure-bred Bourbon Red heritage turkeys at Poplar Creek Pastured Poultry is the equivalent of an heirloom tomato-raised to continue a historical breed passed through generations. "I think it's important to keep them from going extinct," McNulty explains.

Her turkeys are leaner and smallerthan large-breasted, mass-produced birds. And they're not the only alternative to the ubiquitous Butterball: This year, consider one of these locally raised turkeys for your table.

HERITAGE

These historical breeds have been passed through generations, and Poplar Creek's Bourbon Reds bear brilliant brown plumage. They clock in around 12 to 15 pounds, so they're good for feeding smaller groups. They also have a rich, meaty flavor, says McNulty, who gives birds time to develop an extra layer of fat-about three to four months longer than other birds. "That makes them really tender," she says.

Snag one: Reserve one from Poplar Creek at 614-208-0540

FREE-RANGE

Sticking to a strict vegetarian diet, these birds roam free outside, but usually live in shelters. At Bowman Landes in New Carlisle, birds are processed on site so they don't freak out en route to the slaughterhouse. Less stress means a better-tasting turkey, claims co-owner Carl Bowman. He also lets meat age for seven to 10 days because "with a fine meat that's aged properly, it's much more tender."

Snag one: North Market Poultry and Game, 59 Spruce St., Arena District

PASTURE-RAISED

These are "hippie turkeys," says Jill Moorhead, marketing director at The Hills Market. "They fly and roost and get into trees, and as a result, they have more muscle tone, which gives them a richer, more complex flavor," she says. Pasture-raised turkeys at Tea Hills Farms in Loudonville (which also raises a variety of heritage breeds) dine on organic grass as they roam, too.

Snag one: The Hills Market, 7860 Olentangy River Rd., Worthington