JD Farms Specialty Turkey
In Langley, British Columbia, the Froese family, owners and operators of JD Farms Specialty Turkey, have been producing hormone- and antibiotic-free, vegetarian-fed and humanely raised birds for generations. The family-run farm has been raising a better bird long before others in western Canada jumped on the bandwagon. Today JD Farms markets around 900,000 kilograms of all-natural turkey and makes over 104 different products — everything from whole turkeys to breasts and legs, smoked meats such as pepperoni, turkey meatballs, sauces and seasonings, grab-and-go dinners and more. The company even has a growing line of raw and all-natural turkey pet food products.
“We’ve been raising our birds in what we believe is the right way — free of hormones and antibiotics, a vegetarian and grain-based diet and a focus on animal welfare — for more than 24 years,” says Jason Froese, general manager, vice president and son of Jack and Debbie Froese, founders of JD Farms. “They don’t get quite as big as regular commercial birds and they take a little longer to mature, but we think they’re tastier.”
One example of a tastier, juicer bird is JD Farms’ signature Heirloom Bronze bird, sold during the holiday season. The premium brand broad-breasted turkey has exceptional flavor and a light caramel color. Raised with the same integrity of all other JD Farms specialty turkeys, the brand has drawn the attention of top chefs and figures in the culinary world.
On-site JD Farms has a farm store and bistro where the family sells local products, prepared meals and visitors can stop in for a delicious sandwich made with freshly carved turkey. The store sells homemade turkey stock and gravy and all of the fixings for a classic roast turkey dinner.
At home in Langley, the JD Farms packing line also makes turkey sausage and pepperoni. “We’ve been doing this since the beginning and last March we went to Germany and picked up some new sausage-making equipment, which is helping us increase our production and get more products to market,” says Jason.
Raising healthy, happy turkeys
Jack and Debbie started the farm approximately 35 years ago and today their children are raising turkeys in the same tradition. JD Farms started as an egg-laying operation in 1979 and the turkey business was brought on in 1986. Jason, who grew up on the farm along with his sisters Marilyn Morgan and Jennifer Huttema, came back at age 33 to run the wholesale turkey business. “My sisters and I are still involved today — Marilyn is in sales and Jennifer is part of our office staff,” says Jason.
“We decided to look into the antibiotic-free, vegetarian-diet means of raising our birds and we were doing it before many other farms. We we’re sort of the guinea pigs,” says Jason. “Beyond that, we’ve developed an animal welfare program. We have seven farmers that grow for us and now these farms and our own operation are all certified through GAP [Global Animal Partnership].”
Some of the practices that fly at commercial farms aren’t allowed at JD Farms. “Some commercial farms remove the spurs, which is the back toe on a bird and it’s used as a fighting tool; we keep them on and we’ve increased the space requirements for the birds,” Jason notes.
JD Farms was ahead of the curve in its feeding and treatment programs and this has paid off as consumers increasingly demand greater product traceability and improved animal living conditions. “Knowing how our birds were raised and treated is a huge concern for customers,” says Jason —especially when that customer base includes those who shop at natural food stores and small mom-and-pop community grocers, not to mention health-conscious retailers such as Whole Foods and Choices Markets throughout British Columbia.
JD Farms’ turkeys are not free-range, Jason clarifies, but he says that’s a matter of safety, not animal welfare. “We raise our birds in spacious barns, with plenty of room to move around and free access to water and food daily, but we choose to not have them go outside,” he says.
“When birds are allowed to roam outside you run into disease and contamination issues,” says Jason. “In Indiana, there were more than 400,000 birds euthanized due to a flu outbreak at commercial poultry farms and thousands more are terminated every year due to illness. This stems from migrating birds contaminating outdoor flocks. We have very strict biosecurity in our barns. When anyone enters they have to go through boot washing and dressing; we don’t want to bring in disease or contaminants.”
With the right processes and procedures going into production, JD Farms is producing fresh, all-natural turkey and finding more and more ways to utilize the product. “Turkey isn’t just for Thanksgiving — there are so many uses,” says Jason.
JD Farms is doing the turkey trot down a new road: premium dog food and treats. As consumers opt for a healthier diet, they want the same for their furry friends. “We started wholesaling our JD Farms’ specialty premium dog food two years ago and now we’re adding a new label and packaging,” says Jason. “There’s been a big boom in raw pet food diets; people are realizing you’re not supposed to feed your animals kibble with lots of preservatives and byproducts.”
What goes into JD Farm’s raw dog food? Turkey — it’s that simple. “It’s a frozen, raw product and it comes in quarter-pound pucks made in a patented mold. You can feed it to your dog raw or thaw it out,” says Jason. “There are zero preservatives — just turkey and vegetables and a few added vitamins. We’re also making freeze-dried turkey breast treats, which come in little half-inch cubes. There’s no water because it’s all freeze-dried and that means no chance of salmonella or other bacteria.”
The business continues to diversify, finding new avenues for its fresh, all-natural, hormone- and antibiotic-free, vegetarian-fed and humanely raised birds. From the Froese family to consumers at home, JD Farms Specialty Turkey produces a better bird with integrity.