Turkeys on the farm are raised as close as possible to the way they would live in the wild, with the added protection of predator control at night. I raise 2 types of turkeys, the fast growing commercial hybrid, also known as a double breasted turkey and the standard, or ‘heritage’ single breasted turkey. Both of these types of turkeys pretty much have the run of the farm so they get plenty of exercise all day searching in the dirt and grasses for special goodies which contribute to their overall health and real turkey taste.
Most of their grains are grown locally and with the help of a poultry nutritionist, a balanced feed ration is formulated to supplement what the turkeys get from their grazing. I use no sub-therapeutics or stimulants in their feed. Antibiotics are used only as a last resort and that bird is tagged for later identification to keep it from being processed for sale – usually used as breedstock.
I process small batches of birds here on the farm for ‘on farm’ consumer sales and take larger batches of birds to an approved facility for processing for commercial sales. The birds are aged in bags to retain moisture on ice for 3 days, ready to purchase fresh or double bagged or vacuum sealed and frozen to be sold later. I take the extra time to make sure the birds are bled out completely and cleanly eviscerated.
Standard, or ‘Heritage’ Turkeys
I breed and grow out for market three (3) breeds of standard turkeys. The Beltsville White, the Narragansett, and the Standard Bronze. All three (3) breeds are on the American Livestock Breed Conservancy (ALBC) list. Compared to the genetically engineered hybrids, these ‘natural’ turkeys have a smaller breast, longer legs, firmer texture and overall darker meat. As for flavor, well after your first taste of a real turkey, you will never go back to the soft, bland turkey usually found in the supermarket.
The Beltsville Small White turkey is one of the most ‘Critical’ breeds on this list. This means that there are fewer than 500 breeding birds in the USA, with five (5) or fewer breeding flocks of 50 birds or more and they are also globally endangered.
The Narragansett is on the ‘Threatened’ list with the ALBC. This means that there are fewer than 1,000 breeding birds in the USA, with seven (7) or fewer primary breeding flocks of 50 birds or more and globally endangered.
The Standard Bronze is also on the ‘Threatened’ list. Surprisingly this was the Thanksgiving turkey for over 150 years. We currently have Kardosh Bronze and the Wishard Bronze strain of turkeys.
When you purchase these turkeys for your culinary needs it creates a market for them. This is good, since a strong market means more of them will be raised, which in turn will get them off the ALBC list. Let’s get these delicious old turkeys back as a main course more than once or twice a year!
The hybrid turkeys I raise are the same ones mass produced commercially for supermarket chains through out the US. I only grow the Broad Breasted White as it produces a nice ‘clean looking’ bird. For customers desiring a lot more breast meat on a single bird then these birds are the choice. Though our pastured hybrid turkeys will taste a lot better than store-bought, they can’t compare to the old standard turkeys.