|Fresno, CA -
Turkey fans often find it hard to believe that Mary Pitman,
owner of Mary's Turkeys, which is on a ranch located in Madera
that raises and ships turkeys to different stores across the
U.S. will, most of the time, answer the phone herself.
"I answer my own hotline, and people really don't believe it's
me a lot of the time," said Mary, who has become a bit of a
celebrity in the seven years that Mary's Turkeys has been in
The Pitman tradition started back in 1954, when Mary's
father-in-law started raising his own free-range turkeys. Mary
said that her husband, Rick Pitman, introduced the family's
first turkey, the Mary's Free-Range Turkey, in 1998. The
Pitman's marketed the birds in their own bag, and handled the
This original turkey has had a special meaning for the pair, as
Rick presented it to Mary as a gift for the couple's 25th
"So my husband said that was my anniversary gift, he was naming
this turkey after me," laughs Mary. "So I always laugh and say,
'Some girls get diamonds, I get a turkey named after me.'"
The Pitman family insists that all their turkeys be fed a strict
diet that is free of antibiotics, preservatives and additives.
"I don't inject the turkeys with anything. It gives them a lot
more flavor and moisture," said Mary.
When asked about the diet of the plump birds, Mary said, "They
are fed corn, soy bean milk, soy bean oil, calcium, phosphorus,
and a vitamin and mineral pack."
It seems like Rick Pitman has a tendency for giving his wife
turkeys as gifts for certain special occasions. In honor of the
couple's 30th wedding anniversary, five years after the birth of
Mary's first turkey, two more were added: Mary's Free-Range
Organic Turkey, and the immensely popular Mary's Free-Range
The Heritage Turkey itself has been in such "unbelievable huge
demand" that the Pitman's are scrambling to get the mail orders
out. On the day that Business Street spoke with Mary, she
claimed that 300 such orders were sent out. For those interested
in purchasing one of Mary's Turkeys in the Central Valley, they
may be bought at such stores as the Meat Market in Fresno or any
Save Mart Supermarket.
Things have been so chaotic at the Pitman house with the
Heritage Turkey orders that for the month, Mary's mother (also
named Mary) has moved in to help answer the phone. Two to three
assistants have also been hired, just to help with the Heritage
Many of Mary Pitman's waking hours are spent on the phone these
days, taking orders from those who crave the family's delicious
turkeys. "I have been taking orders for the Heritage Turkeys
since last November. Last year I was on the phone eight to 12
hours a day from September through December, just for the
Heritage Turkeys. I haven't really recovered," said a weary
She explained a little about the uniqueness of the Heritage
Turkey. "With the Heritage Turkey it's just different in that
it's the original turkey before they started cross-breeding them
in the 60's, and it's been a huge favorite among chefs and just
people in general because it's the original turkey flavor. The
meat has more thigh meat, less breast meat in the Heritage
For all of Mary's and her family's efforts to keep the business
going, Mary said that out of all of them, her husband, Rick, is
the one who really keeps it going, making sure the turkeys are
on the trucks.
husband, Rick Pitman, is the one that makes all this happen. He
works 20 hours a day, most of the month of October and the
entire month of November, so he can get all of these turkeys on
the right truck at the right time. It's a tremendous amount of
stress, I don't know how he does it," said Mary.
Mary's Free-Range Turkeys
are raised on healthful grains and allowed to roam in areas four
times the size of the average commercial turkey ranch. Their
high protein diet provides the optimum amount of nutrients for
the turkey to grow into a bigger and more flavorful turkey than
one typically found in the supermarket. You won't find any
antibiotics, animal by-products, preservatives or hormones in a
Along with the different ranches that they have, the Pitman's
also own a poultry processing plant in Sanger.
Rick and Mary are the proud parents of three boys: Mark, David
Ben is the designer of the Mary's Turkeys website, which is
www.marysturkeys.com. On the site is anabundance of information
on the Pitman family, regarding their business, and, of course,
the turkeys themselves. Also included are cooking instructions,
comments from happy consumers of the birds, and articles from
respected publications such as Time Magazine, the Los Angeles
Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and CNN.com. Probably most
important is the fact that people can order the turkeys online
as well as find the locations of the many stores they are sold
During the times when Mary has a moment to spare, she can
reflect on the years she and the rest of the Pitman's have spent
helping to supply America with tasty turkeys.
And it began with the gift of the Free-Range Turkeys from her
Mary herself said, "Everybody always says it's the best turkey
they'd ever had."
Mary's Free-Range Organic Turkeys
Mary's Free-Range Organic Turkeys are fed a certified
organic high protein diet complete with the finest grains and
vegetable proteins and grow naturally with plenty of open space
on a certified organic ranch in sunny California. Because of
cleaner living quarters, a healthier and happier turkey is
produced having a better taste. You won't find any antibiotics,
animal by-products, preservatives or hormones in a Mary's
Free-Range Organic Turkey.
Mary's Free-Range Heritage
Just as Noah's Ark was
created to preserve animal species, the Slow Food U.S.A. "Ark of
Taste" was created to ensure the survival of near-extinct foods.
The Narragansett, the oldest United States turkey variety, and
the Bourbon Red were placed on the Slow Food U.S.A. "Ark of
Taste" in 2001 to prevent their disappearance from the American