Turkeys are huge birds that originated in the Americas, but they were transferred to Europe following European colonization, and they are now common livestock in America, Europe, and other parts of the world. They are farmed all year for their flesh, but they are best known in America as the highlight of the annual Thanksgiving Dinner.
The term “hens” refers to female domesticated turkeys, whereas poults or turkeylings refer to the chicks. Males in the United States are known as toms, whilst males in Europe are referred to as stags. Male turkeys have a characteristic fleshy wattle or protuberance that hangs from the tip of the beak and is more colorful than female turkeys (called a snood).
There are different varieties of turkey that you can raise for meat. Some of the most common ones include:
1. Broad Breasted White Turkey
Commercially, the broad-breasted white turkey breed is by far the most popular domesticated turkey breed. These birds have enlarged breasts, which makes it difficult for them to procreate without human assistance (generally with the help of artificial insemination).
They generate more breast meat, and because of their white hue, their pin feathers are less evident when the body is clothed. Although these characteristics have made the breed successful in commercial turkey production, slow food advocates say that the development of this breed and practices in commercial turkey production have come at the expense of flavor.
Large, completely automated feedlots with a capacity of 10,000 birds are used to raise these animals. These birds’ development processes have been fine-tuned to the point that they regularly weigh more than 40 pounds. The average bird weighs between 38 and 40 pounds.
They can’t fly because of their size, and they’re prone to health issues connected with being overweight (due to extra muscle), such as heart illness, joint damage, and respiratory failure; even if they’re not butchered, these turkeys have a limited lifespan.
2. Bronze Turkey
Bronze turkeys (standard bronze) are a domestic turkey breed. The name relates to the iridescent bronze-like shine of its plumage. This bird was the most popular turkey throughout most of American history, but its popularity began to diminish around the mid-twentieth century. The breed was then split into two different types: the standard tan breed and the broad-chested tan breed.
Domestic turkeys acquired from England are crossed with wild turkeys to produce bronze or tan birds. These matings resulted in a bird that was bigger, more robust, and slower-moving than European turkeys. In 1874, this breed of turkey was accepted into the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection for the first time.
Some bronze turkeys were later selected to be greater in size in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They were termed the Broad Chest Bronze to distinguish them from the Standard (or Unimproved) Bronze, the original kind of bird produced according to the breeds’ Standard of Perfection.
3. Bourbon Red Turkey
The plumage of Bourbon Reds is brownish to dark red, with white flight and tail feathers. Near the end of the tail feathers, soft red streaks across them. The toms’ body feathers may be bordered with black. The undercolor feathers are light buff, while the neck and breast feathers are mahogany.
The beak of the Bourbon Red is bright at the tip and black at the bottom. The wattle on the throat is red and can change to a blue-white color, the beard is black, and the shanks and toes are pink.
The striking red plumage of red turkeys makes them particularly appealing birds. They’re also well-known for having rich, flavorful flesh and are regarded as one of the best-tasting heritage turkey breeds.
4. Norfolk Black Turkey
Norfolk is a county in the United Kingdom. The black turkey, often known as the black or Spanish black or turkey, is a domestic turkey breed. This breed was developed in Europe from Aztec turkeys brought to Europe by Spanish explorers from Mexico. Despite their nicknames in “Spanish” and “English” (England), these birds may be found in a variety of European countries.
Black-colored turkeys were once uncommon in New World herds (in America), but Europeans were extremely selective for this feature until it became widespread. The ‘Black Turkey’ is often regarded as the UK’s oldest turkey breed.
Early settlers produced black turkeys that were delivered to the holds of ships on the transatlantic passage from Europe to the New World. Ironically, the original Thanksgiving turkey was most likely from European birds rather than wild turkeys native to the continent, despite both being descended from the same species.
The blacks were later mixed with wild turkeys to generate breeds like the Narragansett turkey and the bronze turkey. Until the early twentieth century, they were a commercially farmed cultivar in the United States.
5. White Holland Turkey
White Turkeys are a type of domestic turkey that is distinguished by its white plumage. This turkey was created via crosses of European white turkeys (re)imported to North America and crossed with native birds. Its link to the Netherlands is spurious.
The American Poultry Association originally recognized the turkey in 1874, and these animals are now regarded as a hereditary breed of turkey.
Today’s standard weights for males and hens are 36 pounds for males and 20 pounds for hens (females). Although the white Dutch turkey is noted for its smaller chest, hardiness, and longer legs, the Standard of Perfection does not discriminate between the Broad-breasted white and white Dutch turkeys. The same thing has happened in the United Kingdom, with breeders referring to all-white turkeys as “British white” birds.
6. Slate Turkey
The Slate or Blue Slate variety is called by its hue, which is a solid to ashy blue with or without a few black specks throughout the entire body. The turkey is also known as the Blue or Lavender turkey. Hens are paler in color than toms.
The head, neck, and wattles are all reddish-white in color. The beak is horn in color, with brown eyes and a black beard. Pink is used on the shanks and toes.
The American Livestock Cried Breeds Conservancy has identified this class of turkeys as Critically Endangered, and it satisfies the description of an inherited breed of turkey. The slate turkey is one of the most attractive hereditary turkey breeds. A mature Slate turkey hen may weigh up to 14 pounds, while a mature male can reach up to 23 pounds.
7. Narragansett Turkey
The Narragansett turkey is a hybrid between the Eastern the domestic turkey and wild turkey. The Narragansett turkey is a “historic variety, unique to North America,” and is named after Narragansett Bay.
The breed is well regarded for its great temperament, which blends a placid demeanor with strong maternal instincts. They develop early, produce wonderful eggs, have high-quality meat, and do not stray far from home when left free.
The plumage of this Narragansett turkey is black, grey, bronze, and white. It looks like a bronze turkey, but instead of the bronze turkey’s distinguishing copper hue, it has matte grey or black feathers. Because of a genetic abnormality found only in the United States, this breed of turkey can have white feather bars on its wings.
It features a black beard, a horny beak, and a nearly featherless head and neck that varies in hue from red to bluish-white. Narragansett turkeys and hens weigh between 22 and 28 pounds for males and 12 to 16 pounds for females. They can sprint quickly, fly well, and love to sleep in trees at night.
8. Beltsville Small White
The Beltsville Small White turkey was created to meet a specific market need. Most turkeys produced in the United States in the early 1930s had dark-colored plumage, were medium to big in stature and had a narrow breast with little flesh. According to a 1936 poll, 87 percent of home consumers preferred an 8 to 15 pound New York-dressed fowl (blood and feathers removed).
They also desired a meaty, well-finished chicken that was free of dark pin feathers. In 1934, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Beltsville, Maryland research lab launched a seven-year breeding experiment to develop a bird that would meet market demands: a chicken that could fit in apartment-sized refrigerators and tiny ovens and feed small households. Researchers used a genetic basis that comprised White Holland, Narragansett, White Austrian, and Wild Turkey to create the new Beltsville Small White breed.
The Beltsville was first used in the 1940s, and the American Poultry Association recognized it in 1951. Their popularity peaked in the mid-1950s, and the Beltsville Small White led to the creation of additional strains of medium and small white turkeys, in addition to being used as a purebred.
9. Dindon Rouge des Ardennes
Dindon rouge des Ardennes is a turkey breed that was first introduced in the 16th century. It had nearly vanished until aging was reintroduced in 1985, particularly in Champagne-Ardenne. It’s a well-defined bird with red plumage that looks like new rust, a lighter red tail, and huge red wing feathers that are more or less tinted red.
The males’ feathers are surrounded by a thin network of extremely dark brown hue, while the females’ are a softer red, with muscular and powerful thighs and pink legs. It’s a hardy breed with modest growth, good layers, and excellent incubators. This turkey requires a lot of room and also flies effectively.