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Organic turkey farms on LI offer healthier choices

Mark Miloski, 22, extends the wings of one

Mark Miloski, 22, extends the wings of one of his turkeys at Will Miloski's Poultry Farm in Calverton. (Nov. 11, 2011) Credit: Jordan Gibbons

Catherine Raleigh-Boylan and her sister, Maura Ruggiero, own the farm that has been in their family for decades -- Raleigh’s Poultry Farm in Kings Park.

On Long Island, it is one of several farms that sell organic turkeys, offering a healthier option for families during the holidays.

“My parents had been here for 50 years,” Raleigh-Boylan said. “Where some of these new establishments and companies are just getting into the organic end of it, we’ve been organic since organic was.”

The turkeys are able to roam the farm and eat the nutrients naturally present on the ground. A true, fresh bird is never frozen and is slaughtered and prepared a couple days before being eaten. Raleigh-Boylan still thinks the best part about eating their birds is the flavor.

“The taste says it all, I have to be honest,” she said. “It’s the old-time heritage bird, juicy two days later.”

For the sisters, maintaining the farm continues to be a family affair. Catherine’s husband, Al Boylan, takes care of the animals. Maura’s husband, Jim Ruggiero, makes deliveries to local organic supermarkets. And their sons, 24-year-old Brendan Boylan and 12-year-old Michael Ruggiero, help out around the store.

“We sell to people all over the Island that want a true, fresh, organically raised turkey,” Raleigh-Boylan said. “Our customers are actually second, third generations now. They come here with their family’s families.”

Will Miloski’s Poultry Farm in Calverton has been supplying Long Island with organic turkeys since 1946. In the month of November alone, the farm sells about 3,700 to 4,000 turkeys. For Christmas, they will sell about 500 to 600.

Mark Miloski, 22, and his father, also named Mark, feed the turkeys a combination of corn, soybeans and wheat. There are also pear and peach trees that cover the ground with proteins and nutrients for the turkeys to eat.

Miloski’s sells its turkeys for $4.35 per pound. Raleigh’s turkeys are sold at $3.75 a pound. In comparison, frozen turkeys from the supermarket go for 99 cents to $1.30 per pound.

“We use the all-natural feed, it’s definitely a lot more expensive, but it also costs us a lot more to maintain them and feed them,” Miloski said. “So that’s why we kind of have to charge that price, but it's definitely worth it.”

Amy Shapiro, a registered dietitian in Smithtown for 13 years, is aware of the higher costs that come with organic food, but said there are times when it's worth paying extra.

“In general, what I try to tell people is organic is kind of a cost-benefit situation, where if in a perfect world, if we were able to buy everything organic I would certainly suggest it,” she said. “But since that’s probably not doable for most people and myself included, therefore it’s what would make the most sense as far as how you would get the most benefit out of what you’re buying.”

There have been no conclusive studies that determine whether the antibiotics and hormones in non-organic food have any adverse health effects in humans, but there are some speculations by experts.

“My opinion would be, when possible, eating organic means that you’re eating cleaner food,” Shapiro said. “When you’re eating cleaner food, it’s going to be healthier.”

Photo: Mark Miloski, 22, extends the wings of one of his turkeys at Will Miloski's Poultry Farm in Calverton. (Nov. 11, 2011)

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