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Best of Toronto

The Best Turkey in Toronto

Posted by Todd H / September 24, 2010

turkey torontoThe best place to buy a turkey in Toronto - for Thanksgiving, Christmas or some other occasion - is NOT Loblaws, Metro, Longo's, Sobeys, Rabba, No Frills or any other major grocery outlet that sell mass market, mostly frozen, so-large-they-can't-even-walk on their own two legs birds. Instead, it's local, local, local, all the way.

But that's just the beginning of the story. In addition to remaining close to home, it's important to consider how the turkey is raised. The last thing I want on my plate is meat that'll make me feel guilty and 90% of the following shops are doing everything in their power to make sure that any turkey hangover will be hormone, antibiotic, and stress free. And for those who need to go one more step into the full on organic or wild world that's also an option (although, to be honest, who really knows what a wild turkey eats - it might be worse). And if all else fails, there's always the free turkey giveaway at Honest Ed's.

Here are the best places to buy a turkey in Toronto.

Photo by Scott Snider in the blogTO Flickr pool

The Healthy Butcher

The Healthy Butcher

Having established itself as part of the Queen West firmament upon opening 5 years ago, The Healthy Butcher never disappoints. It has naturally raised, grain fed, anti-biotic and hormone free turkey as well as organic turkeys (same as naturally raised but not grain fed – grass?) available. They also have a second Toronto location near Eglinton and Avenue Road. More »

Cumbrae's

Cumbrae's

One of the most beautiful butcher shops I’ve ever been in, Cumbrae’s screams quality and take their meat very, very seriously. With two locations (on Church and on Bayview) in Toronto, picking up a free-roam, grain fed turkey that’s fresh daily shouldn’t be too hard. But if you want something very specific, it’s always best to order ahead. More »

Sanagan's Meat Locker

Sanagan's Meat Locker

Open only a year but going strong, owner Peter, a chef for 15 years before jumping into the butcher trade, has the cutest, best smelling meat shop in Toronto! He offers both free range, grain fed turkeys from Hayter Farms and grassfed organic turkeys from Dragonfly Farms, and it’s best to order at least a week in advance. Even earlier for the organic turkey from Dragonfly. More »

St. Lawrence Uppercut Meats

St. Lawrence Uppercut Meats

In the weeks before Thanksgiving, this massive shop in the heart of St. Lawrence Market will sell between 500-1000 turkeys and while they "don’t believe in organic meats because they don’t exist", their turkeys are free range, grain fed, federally inspected grade “A” birds that’ll be available up until a few days before the holidays for pre-order or until all gone at retail. More »

Rowe Farms

Rowe Farms

To grab a wonderful bird from Rowe, head to one of their stores in Leslieville or on Roncesvalles. Once there, you'll be rewarded with anti-biotic free, free range, stress free, indoor bred turkeys that are air chilled (none of that water chilled nonsense here) and promise to be super moist and yummy. More »

Bloor Meat Market

Bloor Meat Market

Around since 1929, you’d think this place would have its act together, but it was quite the opposite when I recently visited. With 3 people working, none could tell me whether the birds were local, organic, free range, grain fed, anti-biotic free or even where they came from. They assured me they were never frozen and there would be two types available but that was it. Your call. More »

St. Andrew Poultry

St. Andrew Poultry

Landing in the cool column because of the back windows that let you see how your meat is prepared, this Kensington butcher isn’t the prettiest and its signage is barely discernable, but it has been around since 1976 so it’s doing something right. It offers grain fed, free range turkeys from local farms in Ontario and suggests at least one or two days before the holidays as the last day to order. More »

Summerhill Market

Summerhill Market

This extremely attractive store about 2 km east of the equally lovely Summerhill LCBO won awards in 2009 for its quality foods and their turkeys are no exception. You can special order an organic bird by giving them a call, but all others are free range, 15lbs plus walking vessels of goodness from Bill’s Turkey Farm in Queensville, ON. They also graciously include instructions so not even the novices among us can screw it up! More »

Whitehouse Meats

Whitehouse Meats

Winner of the “Most Jovial Staff I Came Across” and the “Most Like A Walled Castle” award for their super high fridges that only the tallest can peek over, this St. Lawrence Market standby (since 1953) will only say that their turkeys are fresh, from Ontario and need to be ordered at least five days in advance of the holidays to guarantee it will be on the table when necessary. More »

Vince Gasparro's

Vince Gasparro's

This long, large, very old-fashioned butcher shop on Bloor West is jam packed with stuff and advertisements for its free run, grain fed turkeys are everywhere you turn once inside. I don’t know where they get their turkeys from but honestly, if it’s good enough for Matt Galloway, it’s good enough for me. More »

Fresh From the Farm

Fresh From the Farm

Located on a 2 block village like stretch of shops just south of O’Connor at the top end of Donlands, Fresh from the Farm is all about hormone and drug free meat from Amish and Mennonite farms and in addition to turkey has duck, goose, lamb and ham available (as do most others on this list). 4 days before the holidays is generally your last day to grab one unless you feel lucky. Do ya? Punk? More »

Butcher by Nature

Butcher by Nature

Located in the Junction, this small, tightly packed butcher has more tchotchkes in the window than my grandmother’s entire house, and more turkey references than you can shake a drumstick at. Kidding aside though, their 4 generations in the business means they know their turkey and it’s natural all the way. Definitely a go to place. More »

Meat on the Beach

Meat on the Beach

Around since 1996 and in its expanded location since 2003, Meat On The Beach is a full service grocery store that is as neighbourhoody as it gets. Offering local, free range, hormone and anti-biotic free, naturally raised turkey, second generation butcher and owner Ernesto will gladly answer any and all turkey related questions you may have. More »

Discussion

22 Comments

Derpud / September 24, 2010 at 10:36 am
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It's a shame that Viking/Milbree is still closed. Their smoked turkey was the best ever and I miss it so.
Ryan L. / September 24, 2010 at 10:42 am
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"To grab a wonderful bird from Rowe, head to one of their stores in Leslieville or on Roncesvalles. "

I know those two areas are in some of the few certified cool neighbourhoods on BlogTO, but they have more than just those two locations as well.
Welshgrrl / September 24, 2010 at 10:51 am
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I agree about the Viking! Best turkey I've ever had, bar none.
Moneybags / September 24, 2010 at 10:59 am
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Healthy Butcher?

Yeah I love paying 90 bucks for a turkey.

They're ridiculously overpriced. On everything.
kstop / September 24, 2010 at 11:35 am
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Best I've had was a wild Quebec turkey via the Healthy Butcher but they haven't been doing them the past couple of years. Good to know there's an alternate supply.
morga / September 24, 2010 at 11:46 am
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I can't stand the healthy butcher. I have never been treated well there especially for the amount you pay. I love Vince Gasparro's, what a great guy, so nice and so helpful. The snobs at healthy butcher can kiss my ass.
PMK / September 24, 2010 at 11:59 am
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The Village Butcher on Lake Shore is where it's at.

...of course that would mean BlogTO admitting that Toronto doesn't end at Roncesvalles.
Carly replying to a comment from morga / September 24, 2010 at 01:30 pm
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For real. They're so nice at Gasparro's. I'm a vegetarian and I still like going there.
Shawn / September 24, 2010 at 05:44 pm
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I realize that this is pretty much for uncooked turkeys, but what are some good places for cooked turkeys (preferably places that sell maybe 1/4 or 1/2)?
dinkus / September 24, 2010 at 07:20 pm
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Went to Gasparro's a few years back and ordered a duck a couple of weeks before Xmas. Was assured it would be fresh. After I picked it up on Dec 24, and got it home, discovered it was still frozen in the cavity. Obviously they hadn't allowed enough time for the "fresh" duck to thaw.
Haven't been back to Vince's since.
Elizabeth replying to a comment from dinkus / September 24, 2010 at 09:52 pm
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LOVE Gasparro's. We bought some ground beef there last summer to make burgers, and the butcher asked if we were making burgers, and what we put in ours. He bet his were better, and gave us a free burger to try. Well, his WAS better, and we've been buying them ever since! Great place. And love all the Italian groceries in there too. Smells great.
pat / September 25, 2010 at 03:27 pm
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Best Thanksgiving turkey is a goose :-)
Really. Try it. More flavour, and you can use the fat that renders from it in other dishes to impress your friends for months!
Richard replying to a comment from Moneybags / September 27, 2010 at 10:28 am
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Healthy Butcher is by far the best... yes absolutely true they aren't cheap, but neither are most of the shops on the list. These guys are the only ones I trust. Last year when I picked up my turkey the mennonite farmer that raised the turkey was there - he talked about his turkeys like he knew each one by name and how they are actually outside 100% of the time. I went on their farm trip last month and the farmers couldn't stop saying good things about healthy butcher and how they support real farming. They also bashed some of the other big names in the city as not selling what they say they're selling, but that's another store. Anytime I ask questions, they have answers. Healthy Butcher is best in the city IMHO.

Paul / September 28, 2010 at 10:58 am
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OK, whats the price for one of those turkey. what if you have a whole family to feed??? sometimes you just can't compete with those big supermarkets if your on a budget. a turkey there will go for $0.97 - 1.79 per lbs. how much more would I be paying if I wanted to go to one of these butchers?
thanks
Richard / September 28, 2010 at 11:50 am
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Paul, no doubt... the meat that has been raised properly is a LOT more expensive. I obviously can't speak of your financial position - but generally speaking, I think we north americans spend far too little on food and that's why the "conventional" meat available at grocery stores is raised in such horrific ways, being fed industry by-product and garbage. North americans spend about 11% of their disposable income on food vs. europeans spend 30%. But the quality of the meat you get in general in countries like france or italy is comparable to the higher end and more expensive shops in toronto.

On the turkey front though, spending $2.40/lb on a turkey in the grand scheme of things is not expensive. Conventional chicken breast costs $10/lb, and beef steaks go for $15 and up per lb. The only reason it seems like sooo much money is that you're buying 15lbs in one shot.
KellyDee / October 1, 2010 at 02:55 pm
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This year is the first year we've decided to go the non-industrial bird route. After many phone calls and research to multiple turkey suppliers, we were most impressed with what The Healthy Butcher guy had to say after we put him through our rigorous questionnaire.

He told us in his opinion the 'All Natural Pasture Raised' ones were tastier than the Organic ones. He also said the All Natural ones are raised by a small-time Mennonite farmer just outside of Toronto. He follows all the Organic food standards, but doesn’t believe in having to shell out the money to have the food certified.

The food he feeds them may contain trace amounts of GMOs from cross contamination (though he claims to have pure crops), but he doesn’t use any fertilizers or pesticides, or buy genetically modified seeds. He also grows all the grain he gives them right on his farm, as apposed to the Organic turkeys which have to get their grain shipped in by Organic companies. The turkeys also eat very little grain at all. Most of what they eat is food they find as they graze in the field. They’re kept outdoors all summer, and brought indoors once the weather gets below freezing. They’re processed at a very small, local abattoir/rendering operation, that is far from the federally owned industrial plants. They only kill 10 pigs a day at this plant, and around 100 birds/week (compared to hundreds of pigs/day and tens of thousands of birds/week at the usual industrial slaughtering plants), meaning they can be much more cautious and careful when killing the animals.

So honestly, I don't mind paying $4.59/lb for our turkey.

Rob replying to a comment from Danielle / October 1, 2010 at 08:59 pm
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KellyDee, I've tried every butcher in the city for turkeys, and hands down believe Healthy Butcher's are the best. Use their poultry brine as well... it's killer.
Chester Pape replying to a comment from Derpud / December 23, 2010 at 12:47 pm
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Since it was mentions a couple times, Viking Milbree has reopened in Newmarket. However they have only opened it as a deli, the smokehouse side of the business won't be happening.
COSPLAY / September 26, 2012 at 11:52 pm
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Best I've had was a wild Quebec turkey via the Healthy Butcher but they haven't been doing them the past couple of years. Good to know there's an alternate supply.
Peter Visima / October 5, 2012 at 12:35 pm
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Another source for Hayter Farms turkeys is Grilltime at 62 Laird Drive.
Pauline / October 1, 2014 at 06:09 am
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found an awesome store in Whitby, giving the bigger organic traditional raised stores in Toronto a run for their money. Mennonite raised product gluten, nitrate free, and of course hayters turkeys! Small but lots of product. Worth the drive. Healthy meats. On Brock street.
John Zeus / October 1, 2014 at 03:26 pm
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The best place to get a Turkey in Toronto is to order it from your local farmers' market. Many small farmers are taking orders right now for pastured turkeys to be delivered fresh to your home before Thanksgiving. If you live in Riverdale or Leslieville, there are a couple of farmers at Withrow Park Farmers' Market taking orders this Saturday. Be good to yourself and the planet. Support your small local farmers and farmers' markets.

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