Heritage Breed Turkeys – Why Different Breeds Mean Different Things
Turkey is one of the most commonly eaten items around Thanksgiving. However, when people head to the store and pick up their turkey, they are generally getting a bird that has not really seen the light of day and in most cases has spent their entire life in a small barn with hundreds, if not thousands of other turkeys. For a smaller farm, some of them do use a commercial breed chicken, called the Broad Breasted White or Bronze. This is the type of turkey we used this year because we needed a little bit more size. Other farms, though, use a turkey called a heritage breed and that is what we plan on resorting back to this year. Here are some of the turkey breeds, what characteristics they have, and even a flavor profile on some of the birds.
Types Of Heitage Breed Turkeys
Broad Breasted Whites – this is the common factory type of turkey. This is also the turkey that many people think about when they think of a turkey. These are the turkeys the Dirty Jobs fans may remember seeing getting artificially inseminated on an episode. The reason for this is the type of breeding program that has been going on has made it impossible for the white or the bronze for that matter to breed naturally. These birds as many people already know are characterized by their large breast and heavy meat on the breast. The meat on these birds is exactly what people have gotten used to tasting and that is a bland flavor that can be missing at times without the proper herbs and other preparations being made on the meat.
Broad Breasted Bronzes – While classified as a commercial breed of turkey the Bronze is a dual purpose bird. For the Broad Breasted variety of turkey, it was bred with the Broad Breasted White, to fulfill the purpose of getting a larger breast. However, early turkey breeders, none of whom are alive today, know the Bronze just by its name as a Bronze. These breeders hung onto a few small family flocks and people can still find the plain Bronze birds around, but they are a little bit harder to find. With the Broad Breasted, the birds have the same characteristics as the whites, but tend to be a little bit more hardy and are easier on the eyes as people can see from the picture above.
Kentucky Bourbon Red – This is the type of heritage breed turkey we raise at Sacred Mountain Farms. As you can already tell this is a turkey that was developed in the bourbon region of Kentucky. The breed was developed in the late 1800’s by J.F. Barbee who took and crossed some of the popular breeds of the day in the Buff, Bronze, and White Holland turkeys. This cross breeding is what led to the rich colors and temperament of the Bourbons. The turkeys do lay quite a few eggs each year and the eggs are often seen as large in size, which is very true. The turkeys do have a very tender meat and if they are raised properly, they do have more of a darker color on their breast and overall meat when compared to the other turkey breeds. When properly dressed out, these birds will weigh in between 14 and 23 pounds, which provides a decent sized turkey for eating.
Royal Palm Turkey – The Royal Palm is a heritage breed turkey, but it is one that is unique because of the beautiful color of this turkey. The Royal Palm has a color that people have not really seen before because they do not get to see this breed that often. The color of the Royal Palm is more of a palm type of color and pattern to it, but it is also a breed of turkey that is a mixture of several standard breeds as well. However, the Royal Palm does have a unique feature in that it is able to make their meat stand out and that the original breeding was with wild turkeys, blacks, bronzes, and Narrgansett. These turkeys will generally weigh in around 10 to 16 pounds and they will product large cream colored eggs.
Narragansett Turkey – With the Narragansett, it is going to have a very good taste profile to it, but it is also going to have a great look to them. This turkey is a descendant from the wild turkeys and what is thought to be the Norfolk Blacks that were brought over in the 1600’s. So this is a turkey that has a long and storied past in America and it is looking to continue to grow as more smaller farms are starting to raise these birds for their flavor profile. The best part is if people are looking to raise a turkey to help them start a breeding flock of turkeys, they will really want to consider the Narragansett as they have been known for some great motherly instincts.
Turkeys are one of those items that people generally go to the store and buy. However, what people need to realize is a lot of those turkeys are commercial production birds and those birds tend to be bred specific for the meat production that is required for the animals to grow bigger, faster than normal. While this is all fine, it does not always provide the tastiest meat possible and sometimes people never realize the difference between the turkeys that are raised commercially and the heritage breed turkeys. By know the difference and knowing about some of the heritage turkey breeds, though, you will be able to get the best turkey for your family and know the taste will be unlike anything else that you have eaten before.