Thousands of Sonoma County turkeys are about to take to the skies.
Williams-Sonoma customers around the United States are ordering fresh Willie Bird turkeys for their Thanksgiving tables. Soon the great turkey migration of 2013 will begin.
"On the Monday before Thanksgiving we'll ship 11,000 by mail order," said Greg "Beagle" Brodsky, manager of Santa Rosa-based Willie Bird Turkeys. The aim is for all the birds to reach their destinations no later than Wednesday, the day before the big holiday.
It takes about about nine large cargo trucks to deliver all those turkeys to airports in Oakland, Sacramento, San Jose and Southern California, said Brodsky, who has been with the company for 37 years.
"You've basically got Willie birds flying all over the country on Nov. 25," he said.
Willie Bird turkeys have been sold through Williams-Sonoma for about 16 years. In the early days, sales averaged a few thousand birds a year.
A 12-14 pound free range turkey sells on the Williams-Sonoma website for $75, while a 24-26 pound organic turkey sells for $185. It costs another $15 to ship each bird.
The turkeys are raised on farms near Santa Rosa and Petaluma. The birds are slaughtered and processed in the Central Valley, then boxed and placed in cold storage near Los Banos. United Parcel Service will send trucks there to pick up the packed boxes, Brodsky said.
Locals don't have to turn to digital orders to get a Willie Bird turkey. Instead, they can call the company's store on Highway 12 west of Santa Rosa and order a fresh turkey for $3.49 a pound, Brodsky said.
The store will sell 3,000 to 4,000 turkeys in the three days before Thanksgiving, Brodsky said. All are sold by prior order.
As the years go by, Brodsky has noticed two changes in consumption. First, shoppers today are buying more smoked turkey and related products such as turkey bacon. Second, more families have switched to roast beef and other entrees at Christmas.
But the menu for the fourth Thursday in November remains unchanged.
"Turkey is always going to be on that dinner table for Thanksgiving," he said.