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The First Thanksgiving Was All About Local

by Kat Merrick

With the USDA predicting a turkey shortage for this year’s holiday season, we’d like to suggest some great local alternatives for your Thanksgiving, Christmas, or other holiday feasts.

Dinner table setting

The Turkey Shortage and Rising Costs

It’s estimated that there will be two to three percent fewer turkey birds available this year which is, in part, due to the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, commonly known as Bird Flu. In July, the USDA reported that, in the turkey industry, 5.4 million turkeys have been depopulated because of HPAI exposure. This is equivalent to about 2.5 percent of all turkeys used to supply the food industry in 2021. While the USDA has also reported that the HPAI outbreaks in commercial facilities have diminished, losses that occurred in the spring have affected the USDA’s turkey production forecasts for the remainder of the year. As the Turkey industry deals with these shortages, it is also getting hit with rising grain prices which, in turn, has increased the cost of turkey production and pricing to consumers. All this translates to turkey prices estimated to be 73% higher than last year. It’s a hard hit to turkey farmers and our pocketbooks.

Fish plate

Did you know… ?

The traditional roasted turkey has become the iconic centerpiece at most American dinner tables on Thanksgiving. However, historians believe there were other foods that actually predated the turkey feast. Culinary historians believe that seafood played a major part in the menu of the first Thanksgiving. Mussels thrived in New England and could be harvested easily along with shellfish, beds of clams and oysters, as well as an abundance of lobsters. It’s also, known that Native Americans dried and smoked fish, eel, and other items and would have most likely been part of that meal. Hunting would have put a goose or two or possibly ducks and the now-extinct passenger pigeon on the menu as well.

Starches and more

While potatoes tend to play a big role in the now American holiday feast, there would not have been any potatoes at the first Thanksgiving. The Andean white potato (Solanum tuberosum) didn’t become widespread in North America until well into the 1700s and my personal favorite, the sweet potato (Ipomea batatas), had not yet made its way from the tropical Americas, through the Caribbean, and eventually reaching New England until much later. Most likely the menu would have consisted of pumpkins roasted and/or mashed, nuts, like the American chestnut, and corn would have been highlights on the table.

Potato dish

The reason for the season

At its core, Thanksgiving and the winter holiday season is really about spending time with loved ones and giving thanks. This year, when creating your holiday menus, why not take it back to the essence of that first Thanksgiving and go local, fresh and in-season.

Going local is easy in Ventura County

A great place to start is our area farmers’ markets. Check out the list in our article Our Survival Guide To Farmers’ Market Shopping.

Some of the best local seafood can be found at Ocean Pride Seafood and Wild Local Seafood. For the best meats selections, why not stop into The Ventura Meat Company or Watkins Ranch Butcher Shop. Here’s where you can find them:

Ocean Pride Seafood

2894 Bunsen Ave. Unit B

Ventura, CA 93003




Wild Local Seafood Co.

1559 Spinnaker Dr #105

Ventura, CA 93001




The Ventura Meat Company

2650 E Main St

Ventura, CA 93003




Sources: History.com, National Geographic, Smithsonian.com, Yew Dell Botanical Gardens

Image credits: Viktor Budnik, Denise Dewire, Nathan Dumalao, Bady Abbas

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