For nearly a generation, scores of Valley residents have feasted on turkeys from Young’s Farm during their holiday festivities.
But come this Christmas, families will have to start looking elsewhere for their homegrown gobblers.
AJ’s Fine Foods, a subsidiary of the Chandler-based Bashas’ grocery chain, will no longer carry Young’s poultry after the Dewey-based company decided to outsource its stock from other states. Bashas’ found a cheaper supplier through the Englewood, Colo.-based RedBird Farms Company, but said that factored very little into its decision.
The move will effectively end the last remnants of the 60-year-old Young’s Farm brand name in Arizona after the company decided to greatly scale back its business operations and sold off its property in 2005.
The family-owned company is divesting itself of its 80-acre farm, where it raises everything from sweet corn to chickens, after a long-simmering dispute with the state over its future water rights.
Despite the sale, Aaron Young — grandson of founder Elmer Young — said his company was planning to maintain its brand’s presence in Arizona’s stores by getting its poultry from out-of-state farms. He said the birds would keep the same level of quality as his locally grown stock and would get the same nonchemically treated feed formula that the family uses.
He said news that Bashas’ would terminate its business relationship with his company was a “shock,” but said he respects the grocery retailer’s decision.
“There’s just huge disappointment” he said. “Nobody does the volume that AJ’s does.”
Young’s Farm distributes about 20,000 turkeys a year during the holidays, 8,000 of which go to AJ’s alone. The remainder are sold in small restaurants, butcher shops and grocery stores.
Young said he can’t maintain a year-round business by distributing through a handful of small businesses.
The Young family recently distributed an open letter to its customers telling about Bashas’ decision to stop carrying the turkeys. Young said it’s important that Bashas’ knows he doesn’t carry a grudge, but that he simply wanted to keep his customers informed.
Mike Proulx, president and chief operating officer of the grocery chain, said the company decided to end its 20-year relationship with the Young family because officials were concerned the stock quality and consistency may decline.
“I guess it’s a comfort thing with our AJ’s and Bashas’ stores,” he said.
He said that although the company found a cheaper supplier, that had little to do with the decision.
Kevin Murphy, a buyer at the Gentle Strength Cooperative grocery store at 9 E. Southern Ave. in Tempe, said Young’s birds are popular with his clientele during the holidays.
Murphy, who said he sells about 150 of the turkeys a year, said he’s having a difficult time finding another reliable local supplier that offers free-range birds raised without the use of chemicals. “We’re looking around but there’s just not much,” he said.