Just in time for the Thanksgiving season, locally raised antibiotic-free turkeys will be available in select Schnucks Markets starting this weekend, Fri., Nov. 14. 

In August Gardell Strite and his son-in-law Andrew Weaver came together to raise and sell turkeys for Sunny Meadows Turkey Farms. There are many challenges in raising turkeys as antibiotic free – mainly preventing them from getting sick. Weaver raised the turkeys at his farm in Cisne, Illinois, while Strite handled the marketing and used his relationship with local markets to sell the turkeys.

“It requires a large investment and a lot of commitment,” Strite says.

Strite would’ve never raised antibiotic-free turkeys on his own but is proud to see Weaver do it. Weaver is also raising them cage free and on a vegetarian diet, with no animal fat in the feed, which are other important factors in keeping the turkeys as healthy as possible. He said giving the turkeys probiotics is one solution they used to keep them healthy.

Unlike the turkeys that come from big corporations, antibiotic-free turkeys are often much smaller and more docile. At Strite’s farm, the turkeys can be up to 40 pounds, whereas Weaver’s turkeys are projected to be somewhere around 20 pounds.

"We really appreciated Schnucks willingness to talk to us because we’re so small and they’re so big,” Strite says.

And as for preparation, Strite said preparing the turkeys is the same as any other turkey bought in the store. He recommends looking to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website for cooking instructions.

Strite and Weaver grew up in two different generations, but both spent their childhood on the farm. Strite owns Wholesome Gardens in Bluford, Illinois, which primarily grows produce and herbs, but also raises turkeys for Farbest Foods, Inc. Weaver created Sunny Meadows Farms from the ground up to raise the turkeys. This is Weaver’s first operation, although he grew up working on a dressing plant owned by his uncle and brother-in-law.


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