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Although Lori can gut a turkey -- by hand -- with ease, she leaves the actual killing to her husband. (The birds are stunned before their throats are slit; they're then bled upside-down before being machine-picked of feathers.) They deal with the birds as humanely as possible, but customers still occasionally have trouble handing over their future dinners. "It's typically the people who name them," Lori says, laughing. "I tell people, 'They're not pets. Don't name them if you're going to eat them.' And I really don't want to know their names. A couple people have gotten upset, tears, you know. They say, 'Oh, they were good.' I tell them, 'Oh, they'll be better on your plate -- don't worry about it.'"
Forty percent of all Thanksgiving turkeys are fresh, according to Sherrie Rosenblatt, spokeswoman for the National Turkey Federation, the turkey-growing industry's largest trade organization, headquartered in Washington, D.C. (The group's Web site, turkeyfed.org, includes a wealth of turkey facts and information.) And while Rosenblatt is reluctant to rate the taste of fresh birds above that of her frozen constituents -- some people prefer fresh birds simply for their convenience, she says, because they don't have to be thawed -- she does reveal that she'll enjoy a fresh gobbler on Thanksgiving.
A number of Front Range specialty shops and supermarkets carry fresh turkeys during the holiday season. Paul Nickless says that Esquire Market, his family's business, has been selling fresh holiday birds for 53 years, and they're becoming increasingly popular. "There is a difference in flavor," says Nickless, who has never eaten a frozen turkey in his life. So far this year, Esquire has taken orders for close to 700 fresh turkeys (at $1.49 a pound).
But none of those birds are likely to have enjoyed the care and attention that Stewart's lavished on her own turkeys. For the past few weeks, she set a space heater on the back porch so that Dumb and Dumber will stay warm on cool nights. Before going from gobblers to gobbled, the birds have also been on a two-week "finishing" diet.
"They follow you around like a puppy," Stewart says, stroking Dumb -- or is it Dumber? "But I don't think I'm going to have any problems eating them. The whole idea was to grow our own."
She takes her hands off the bird, then rubs them together, a gleeful look in her eye. "I think they're going to be good."
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