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Ho-Ka Turkey: A Guide to Cooking and Serving This Tasty Bird

The Ho-Ka turkey is a specific breed of turkey, bred by Howard Kauffman Turkey Farms. The first flock was established more than 80 years ago. Selective breeding has been done over the years to breed the perfect Thanksgiving turkey.

Kauffman Turkey Farms is now one of the few family owned and operated turkey farms that also contains a dressing plant in the United States. They provide fresh Ho-Ka turkeys for residents throughout the Northern Illinois area.

The turkeys are raised on the farm, and are bred for slow and steady growth. It is a breed that contains a significant amount of meat (though, like all turkeys, few eggs), with an emphasis on great flavor and texture. 

What is a Ho-Ka Turkey?

With more than 70,000 Ho-Ka turkeys raised at the Ho-Ka farm in Illinois, it is the largest turkey farm in the state. It takes hens about 16 weeks to reach full maturity for dressing, while toms take until 19 weeks of age before they are mature enough for dressing.

During the season, the first flock of turkeys are free-range, but the weather does not permit this as the season goes on. This specific breed of turkey is white, and all of the turkeys found on the farm are white in color.

They are bred to have large breasts, where the white meat comes from. The larger breast size makes it impossible for the Ho-Ka turkey to breed naturally, so they must be artificially inseminated.

How Much are Ho-Ka Turkeys Per Pound?

A whole, Ho-Ka frozen turkey is currently priced at $2.29 a pound at the Ho-Ka Turkey Farm in Illinois. They also offer wings, drumsticks, turkey necks, and other cuts of the turkey for a variety of prices.

Ho-Ka turkeys are more expensive than other frozen turkeys on the market, but the birds are described as worth it and delicious for those looking for the perfect turkey at Thanksgiving or Christmas. 

How do I Cook a Ho-Ka Turkey?

If you are going to roast your turkey, use a thermometer to test when the turkey is done. While an internal temperature of 185 degrees is recommended, white meat only needs to be cooked to 170 degrees, while dark meat should stop cooking once it reaches 180 degrees.

You will set the temperature of your oven to 325 degrees, and let the turkey cook about 30-45 minutes for each pound of turkey you are cooking.

Roasting turkey is simple (especially in a turkey roaster), once you get the hang of it. Your turkey should be covered in foil, and basted periodically to keep all of the meat moist. You can also consider smoking it.

Should the Stuffing Be Cooked Inside the Turkey?

You can cook stuffing inside your Ho-Ka turkey, but pay attention to how long everything sits out on your counter.

Stuffing a fresh turkey can lead to problems with salmonella, so you want to be sure to get your turkey in the oven quickly.

If you prefer, you can make stuffing separately from your turkey, and serve it with the meat once it has been cooked.

Should You Brine a Ho-Ka Turkey?

Brine Turkey

While you can brine a Ho-Ka turkey, there’s really no reason to. The owner of Ho-Ka turkey farm states that guests couldn’t tell a difference between one turkey that brined, and the other that wasn’t.

If you skip the brining process, you will save time in cooking the bird. It used to be common practice to brine turkeys before cooking them, but this is no longer the case for many cooks.

Are Ho-Ka Turkeys Organic?

The owner of Ho-Ka farm addresses this question succinctly. Ho-Ka turkeys are not labeled organic, free range, or natural, because that is not a legal distinction for turkey farms.

These words are often used to confuse buyers, who are looking for a natural meat to eat. Ho-Ka turkeys eat a wide range of food, as they are true omnivores. They are able to move about, and are raised on the farm (like pasture raised chickens) from day one until they are dressed for consumption.

Natural can be put on a label, and the turkey could be full of salt and other “natural” products. Ho-Ka turkeys do not contain added ingredients, and the owner believes that the natural label is misleading.

Are Ho-Ka Turkeys Hormone Free?

Hormone free in the poultry industry is another term that the owner finds misleading. Ho-Ka turkeys are hormone free, because using hormones in the poultry industry is illegal.

No farmers use hormones while raising poultry, as it is both illegal and not helpful. Of course Ho-Ka turkeys are hormone free, but so are all turkeys on the market today.

Are Ho-Ka Turkeys Considered Free Range?

The distinction of free range is probably not what you are thinking when you consider a poultry farm. All that a farmer has to do for a flock of turkeys to be considered free range is to provide an access door to the outdoors.

While the first flock of the season is free range, the rest of the year the weather is not warm enough for the turkeys to survive outside. They are safely cared for inside, with plenty of room to roam around.

Ho-Ka turkeys can be found fresh at Ho-Ka farm, and in local grocery stores throughout most of the year. The turkeys arrive at the farm at one day old, and they are dressed at 16 weeks for hens, and 19 weeks for toms.

The turkeys eat an omnivore diet, and are not restricted to just fruits and vegetables. They are bred for their large chests, providing families with an abundance of white meat upon dressing.

This farm has been around for roughly 80 years, and the Ho-Ka turkey has been selectively bred to be only white. Colored feathers were causing a stained look when some of the birds were dressed, and the selective breeding led to pure white chickens.

The birds are well cared for, and an excellent addition to a holiday meal. You cook a Ho-Ka turkey the same as any fresh turkey you would purchase.