Free-Range Turkeys from an East Greenwich Farm

At Pat’s Pastured, humanely raised birds are the centerpiece of holiday meals

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It’s the main event of Thanksgiving dinner – and the source of gravy-smothered sandwiches for days later – but where the bird comes from isn’t always a top priority when checking off the holiday grocery shopping list. Husband and wife duo Patrick (Pat) and Kelly McNiff, who own and operate Pat’s Pastured in East Greenwich, make the experience of picking up a turkey part of the tradition.

“We’ve had relationships with people since we started farming who come every year and get their turkey from us. I’ve seen kids grow up picking up their turkey every year,” says Pat McNiff. “A lot of times, the turkey is kind of the forgotten thing; you have to have it, but it’s all about the stuffing or the gravy or the potatoes, but our turkeys really make people go, ‘that was amazing, that’s why it’s the centerpiece’, as it should be.”

It all starts with how the birds are raised: from tiny poults – or babies – to full-grown turkeys roaming the pasture. “Turkeys are amazing
foragers, they love to graze, they love to chase a grasshopper through the grass, they’re curious, they explore,” McNiff says. “When we put them in the fresh grass, they just go to town. It’s like a salad bar of new stuff for them.”

The McNiffs founded their livestock farm around sustainable and humane practices. Originally working in urban agriculture in Providence community gardens through the Southside Community Land Trust, McNiff began his career in vegetable farming before transitioning to livestock with Pat’s Pastured 15 years ago. “It’s about the healthy animals, healthy land, and healthy communities,” he says, explaining how those principles inform everything they do, from keeping healthy soil through rotational grazing to doing all their own processing on the farm.

“Any animal that’s treated well and treated with respect...I feel like it changes the animal’s life, which really does change the flavor of the animal,” McNiff says. “Sometimes the turkey only tastes like the gravy you put on it.” This isn’t the case for turkeys from Pat’s Pastured, which are fed certified non-GMO feed and roasted soybeans (whole grain rather than processed), adding a nuttiness to the meat, which is flavorful and not gamey.

Though sold frozen, McNiff explains that their turkeys are fresher than store-bought – which are often kept slightly frozen for several months – as they’re processed at the end of October and come straight from the farm. Along with the centerpiece, you can load up on chef-made sides like sweet potato casserole, stuffing, and gravy. New this year is delivery for most of the state, and you can pick up at the farm or the Sims Market at Farm Fresh RI in Providence.

The McNiffs’ goal is to make the holiday easy and wholesome, and they put care into all the details. “This might be the first Thanksgiving in over a year that people are actually getting together in person, and that means a lot to us to have people choose to put our turkey on their table. We don’t take it lightly.”

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