Branigan’s Turkey Farm, a lovely family owned business since 1942 is running full speed as Thanksgiving approaches. Branigan’s is synonymous with quality and consistency and come highly recommended by anyone who has been fortunate enough to eat one of their birds. I was lucky enough to interview owner, Terri Sue Branigan. She also provided a Cooking 101 lesson for me (I’m a newbie to cooking turkey). Her video is below at the end of the interview.
How long have you been with Branigan’s?
I’ve been working at Branigan’s Turkey Farm for 37 years. In 1978-79 my husband and I were taking over the business from his parents, Don and Dot. For one year we all worked together than after that we were on our own. Don and Dot started the business in 1942.
What are some of the tasks you would do when you first took over?
That’s a good one! Feeding turkeys all the time. We raised them from when they are babies, which are called Poults. We get them when they are from 12 hours to 24 hours old. They came 100 in a box. We set up the barn for brooding, which means to grow them. The Toms in the back of the barn and the hens in the front. We would have 9,000 at a time! Two batches per year would be done. The first batch begins in May, which is for Thanksgiving and the second batch in June for Christmas. But back to brooding, this process happens for five weeks. After that, you herd them to a barn where they can go in and outside of the barn, basically to learn how to be indoor and outdoor. Five weeks after that, they are outside. Processing, or slaughter, also happened on site. We’d clean them up, chill them down to 40 degrees in ice tubs. Then we can take them out and hang them to remove all water. Then we package them.
What are the birds like?
They are very sensitive birds and particular too. No brain power what-so-ever, but they have very keen eye site and hearing. They would start going crazy. We would wonder what was going on and in a few moments an airplane would be overhead. They could see it and hear it before we could. And then there would be 18,000 birds having a fit over this!
What’s so special about a Branigan’s Bird?
Most commercial birds are around 16 weeks old. We’re the only one that raises them 26-28 weeks, depending on their hatch dates. That way you get more meat per bone. Plus we provide a finished product, which is more expensive. It does cost more to finish them out and get that nice layer of fat to make them self-basting. There is a difference in taste and a quality too.
Q: Can I keep the bird in an ice chest I don’t have enough room in the fridge, or can I leave it in the box in the garage?
A: The answer is NO. It must be refrigerated.
Q: When can I pick up my turkey for Thanksgiving?
A: Three or four days prior to cooking the bird, tops. Saturday – Wednesday before Thanksgiving is fine.
Q: What are the size ranges of whole turkeys?
A: The hens are 12 to 25 lbs. Tom turkeys are 24 lbs. and over. I have 42 pounders!
Q: What size bird for 8 people?
A: 14-16 lbs will feed 6-8 people with leftovers. Just tell me how many people and we’ll get you the right bird.
Here is Terri Sue’s Cooking a Branigan’s Bird (a great how to for those a little intimidated with cooking a Thanksgiving bird!)