Drop the Butterball. Christine Roperti has a better turkey for your family this Thanksgiving. Every year, historic Roperti's Turkey Farm, located smack dab in suburban Livonia, sells 4,000 turkeys in four days. What makes Roperti's turkeys so desirable – and enduring? We talked to the "turkey lady" herself to find out.
66 years strong
Italian immigrant Tom Roperti – Christine's dad – bought the farm in 1948, after a job with Ford moved him from New York to Dearborn. Back then, Livonia was a township better known for its "country" vibe. Tom had just 50 turkeys. "He started with a few cows, but he got too tired and ended up selling them," Christine says. A buddy of Tom's suggested, "Why don't you sell turkeys?" He never looked back.
Today, in autumn, the landmark farm remains a flock of white feathers sandwiched between neighborhoods, visible from Five Mile Road. It's also "a regular production line" during the busy days just before Thanksgiving, employing 40 people to help get the turkeys prepared for their big dinner table debut. Christine's husband (pictured above), sons (now 47 and 45), daughter-in-law and even grandkids pitch in, too.
Each turkey at Roperti's is a wild turkey (not Amish) free to roam the farm's five acres. "I get them from a grower in Holland, and he gets them from the hatchery at 1 or 2 days old," Christine says. "He takes care of them until they are 9 weeks old, and then he brings them to me in the last week in August and they go right outside." Her organically raised turkeys are fed corn, wheat and oats – and no chemicals or preservatives, which she says is the reason behind their moist and savory taste and shorter cooking times. "I love my turkeys. I love my customers," she says. "I love knowing they are putting something good into their body."
Teaching turkey to kids
Roperti says she gets lots of repeat business, and some of her customers have been buying since her dad used to sell. Others bring their kids in earlier in the year to see the turkeys as chicks and return when they are fully grown. "Kids like to feed the turkeys and go up to the fence and 'gobble gobble' real loud – and the turkeys gobble back."
Though the Roperti clan eats turkey throughout the year, it's not on the menu for Thanksgiving. "We work so hard that time of year that we don't want to see another turkey!" she says. Instead, Christine sends a turkey to her sister in Florida, and sis sends up crab claws in return.
Get your turkey
Roperti's Turkey Farm sells turkeys beginning in October for both Thanksgiving and the holiday season. They range from 18-28-pound hens to 32-40-pound toms and sell for $3.39 a pound. Each is dressed, just for you, 24 hours before you pick it up.