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Worth the Price by Francine Spiering

At $6 per pound for a Freedom Ranger chicken or $10 per pound for a heritage turkey, you get what you pay for: healthy good meat that is full of natural flavor. Yet the price of poultry like that from Tejas Heritage Farm reflects so much more than just its flavor: It reflects the animal’s welfare, the humane treatment, the many months it took to raise the poultry naturally, the certified-organic feed to supplement its pasture diet—not to mention the labor-intensive process involved with butchering birds individually and by hand. Local chefs Chris Shepherd, Justin Yu and Adam Dorris wouldn’t want to have it any other way.

Fully grown Tejas Heritage Farm’s White Muscovy ducks routinely make it to Pax Americana, where Chef Adam Dorris utilizes the whole bird in a variety of preparations. “We render the fat for multiple applications, use all the bones for stock and make sauces with the offal. David’s product is far superior to most fowl I have used. It makes the cost secondary to the quality of the product,” says Chef Dorris.

“Having a tasting menu allows me to use all of the bird, which is typically very important to us,” saysOxheart’s Chef Justin Yu. “Right now we are using the guinea hens, which we debone and portion straight away. We stuff the meat with rice and collard greens, and use the carcass for stock,” Yu has been buying whole birds from Tejas Heritage Farm weekly ever since he opened his little gem on Nance Street. “David’s birds get a lot of freedom and the best possible food, and you can taste it in the meat. It is full of flavor and has an incredible texture,” says Chef Yu.

When poultry arrives at Underbelly, Chef Chris Shepherd usually ages them in the chiller first: “We have adapted Peking-style for most of our birds, by which we inflate the skin off of the meat and then air-dry the birds in the cooler for up to two weeks before we use them. This intensifies the flavor in the meat and dries the skin so it becomes crispier.” Chef Shepherd raves about Glover’s poultry: “The quality in his birds is impeccable. It should be the standard for which we look at poultry. The care put into the birds, the way they are handled and treated, the way they are packaged, the quality of the meat, the flavor—it’s second to none. It’s to the point that we traditionally have a standing order with David: We’ll take what he has—whatever it is—when he has it. I once needed ducks for a party, and he gave me the best answer I’ve ever heard from a farmer. I asked him how many he had. His answer: ‘They’re all out on the pond. I can go out and try to count them if you’d like.’” To learn more about Heritage Fowl, read our feature story Bird of a Heritage Feather by Francine Spiering

When poultry arrives at Underbelly, Chef Chris Shepherd usually ages them in the chiller first: “We have adapted Peking-style for most of our birds, by which we inflate the skin off of the meat and then air-dry the birds in the cooler for up to two weeks before we use them. This intensifies the flavor in the meat and dries the skin so it becomes crispier.”

Chef Shepherd raves about Glover’s poultry: “The quality in his birds is impeccable. It should be the standard for which we look at poultry. The care put into the birds, the way they are handled and treated, the way they are packaged, the quality of the meat, the flavor—it’s second to none. It’s to the point that we traditionally have a standing order with David: We’ll take what he has—whatever it is—when he has it. I once needed ducks for a party, and he gave me the best answer I’ve ever heard from a farmer. I asked him how many he had. His answer: ‘They’re all out on the pond. I can go out and try to count them if you’d like.’”

To learn more about Heritage Fowl, read our feature story Bird of a Heritage Feather by Francine Spiering

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Birds of a Heritage Feather by Francine Spiering

Poultry paradise yields delicious pasture-raised meat

Poultry farmer David Glover of Tejas Heritage Farm mimics a gobble sound and like an army saluting, the dozens of gathered turkeys all raise their heads and gobble uniformly in response. Down the tree-lined driveway, the resident peacock struts unruffled by the cacophony of honks, quacks and cock-a-doodle-doos it sets off. As instantly as it erupts, the symphony of poultry sounds quiets down again. Sprawling over 20 acres of pasture and woodlands amidst the lush foliage of the Sam Houston National Forest, Tejas Heritage Farm is committed to raising heritage breed poultry, including turkey, goose, duck, guinea fowl and chicken, as well as rabbit.

This fall, Auburns make up the majority of the turkeys. It is a domestic breed developed in the early 1800s on the East Coast. Other heritage turkeys include Red Bourbons, Black Spanish and slender grey Slates. “All of them have very subtle different flavors but to me the Slates are some of the nicest. Plus, they pluck very well,” says Glover. Dark feathers can leave a stain because of the natural ink in the quill, one reason why most commercial turkeys are bred to have white feathers. “No one can taste it but unless you’re educated, you think the bird is blemished and therefore not satisfactory.”

Free to forage around the property, their pasture diet of wild berries, flowers and insects is supplemented with certified organic feed from Coyote Creek Organic Feed Mill near Austin, as well as whole wheat sprouted on the farm itself.

 

The turkeys’ lifestyle here is as close to that of their wild counterparts as it can be, from the food they eat to flying up a tree, or mating—much unlike the factory-farm selectively bred white turkey whose breasts are so heavy it can no longer run or even reproduce naturally.

 

Tejas Heritage Farm started out as a plantation for exotic plants and wildlife but today the few reminders are the many varieties of bamboo—some of which produce edible shoots in season—and three monkeys in a huge cage that would do a zoo proud. “I used to have loads of ginger plants but the geese ate it all,” Glover says. Like sheep and cows, geese convert grass into meat, which makes it a very flavorful bird. They are grass eaters, and very partial to weeds. “Back in the 18th and 19th century, they were popular as weeders. You can even train them from birth: If you feed a young gosling a certain weed, that’s what they’ll fixate on.”

 

With a hiss, body lowered and neck stretched, one of the geese in the white and grey gaggle attempts a warning charge: We are too close. Glover is smiling: “Aren’t they beautiful? See, the males have extremely little grey feathering, and it is mainly on their wings, and the females only have white feathering on their faces. They should be double lobed—which mine are. They are just right,” he says, his voice swollen with pride of his pure Pilgrim geese. Pilgrim goose is a heritage breed that is critically endangered. The five couples that forage freely on the secluded, wooded pastures with grasses and newly planted winter rye and winter wheat are blissfully ignorant of that fact. The gaggle waddles as if the world is theirs. And here on this farm, it is.

 

Until the gaggle grows stronger in numbers, none of them is even considered for butchering. If it came to that, however, the fact that Pilgrims are dimorphic (or auto-sexing) makes it easier to maintain the right male-female ratio. It is a unique feature among the usually monomorphic geese: Pilgrim males are white and females are grey.

 

 

Relatively quiet, as if he’s a mere spectator to the fuss the turkeys and geese stir up, the big white duck with the red wart-like coloring on his face suddenly glances when we turn and start to talk about him. It is a White Muscovy duck, much appreciated for its large, deep red, flavorful breasts. One breast is large enough to feed two or three people, and the meat quality is often likened to sirloin steak. Until they end up in someone’s smoker or roasting pan, these ducks lead a leisurely life and swim in the pond, waddle around, snooze in the shade of a tree, mingle with the turkeys and—like all poultry here— eat a healthy pasture diet.

 

As much as the property is paradise for poultry, it is also where their lives end: in the butcher house on site. All meat poultry is butchered by hand, one by one, in the most humane and least stressful manner. Caught in the morning, the birds destined for slaughter are brought to the butcher house where they are put—head first—in a butcher cone and allowed to calm down. Then, with a razor-sharp knife their two main arteries are slashed and they bleed out within minutes.

 

Poultry on this farm doesn’t go through any of the stress of transportation and mass slaughter. These birds are not pushed through automated plucking machines by the dozens. There are no feces splashed onto them by other birds during the large-scale, machine-operated slaughter process. With each bird butchered individually and manually, control of the butchering is optimal. After the birds are plucked and cleaned, they are put in a sterile ice bath for a day and a half. It takes care of the rigor mortis—the stiffening of muscles that toughens the meat unless it rests well.

 

In addition to whole birds the farm prepares chili, sausages and smoked meat. Wild boar trapped on the property is butchered and its meat is used to make chili, sausages and pulled pork. All of their products—various birds (including smoked), rabbits, cuts of wild boar, prepared foods, pre-packed innards and fresh eggs—they bring to the market every week on Saturdays, a 50-mile journey each way for the poultry farmers.

 

“We have no other source of income. This is it. Whatever comes from this property is our sole income. And it is frequently scary. You wonder how you’re gonna pay your insurance. But it is what we chose to do, and we do it whole-heartedly.”

 

Tejas Heritage Farm is a Certified Naturally Grown farm. Find David Glover at the market on Saturday (Urban Harvest Eastside market, 8am–noon). Cheri Glover can be found at the Grogan’s Mill Farmers Market in The Woodlands (Saturday, 8am–noon). For more information, check outTejasHeritageFarm.com.


With extremely limited availability, most heritage turkey sell out well before the holidays. You could be in luck. Or you could try and get goose, duck, rabbit or even wild boar for your festive meal. Call and find out what they have!

Tejas Heritage Farm: 281-961-4777 (David) or 281-961-3034 (Cheri)

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Tejas Heritage Farm Open House is cancelled

We are cancelling our open house. With the current forecast we think it's the safe thing to do. If we get the rain expected roads may be flooded and the farm will be too soggy to enjoy. We're very sorry but we do need the rain, just not all at once.

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Tejas Heritage Farm Open House

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Tejas Heritage Farm Open House

We would like to welcome our customers to come join us at the farm.

We'll be serving samples of our products.
Giving tours of our farm.
Drawings for free gift cards.
Meet some of our animals.
Celebrate the season and our awesome customers.

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Our custom seed mix

This is a picture of our THF seed mix. It's GMO free and comprised of oats, sorghum (milo), black oil sunflower, and cowpeas. We mix it on the farm and move it out to the pasture skids in drums mounted on pallets. This way it moves with the birds. We feed this as photographed and also sprouted. The nutritional value after sprouting is multiplied and it means we are increasing the volume of feed by growing it on the farm. The birds like it better too. We'll post pictures of how we sprout the seed.

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What's new on the farm

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What's new on the farm

Check out the Flavor section of the Chronicle August 14th for an article on our farm. Thank you to Cody Duty, the photographer and Syd Kearney, the writer for their efforts.

 

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