turkey on farm at sunset

Select based on breed


Types and Breeds of Turkey:

Commercial Turkeys:

These are the turkeys sold in supermarkets. They have been bred, not for taste, but to have an enormous breast size yielding plenty of white meat and a light, blemish-free skin. They are also bred to be docile and to reach early maturity with maximum growth. Because of their anatomy, these birds cannot fly or mate on their own. When selecting the turkey after January and before October this may be your only choice, unless you find a specialty poultry supplier.

Broad Breasted Bronze (BBB):This bronze-feathered bird evolved during the 20th century and was bred for increased meat about the breast, good hatchability and early maturity. By the mid 20th century, the BBB had become the standard commercial turkey throughout the US.

Broad Breasted White (BBW): This bird was developed in the 1950s at Cornell University by crossbreeding the Broad Breasted Bronze with the White Holland. This breed of turkey matured earlier than the BBB and the skin had a "cleaner" blemish-free appearance. By the 1960s, the BBW became the new commercial standard. Today almost all commercial turkeys are strains of this breed.

Heritage turkeys:

historical varieties raised on small farms, can fly, feed on their own and breed by themselves (without artificial insemination). These turkeys are bred to a "standard" (American or European) compatible with a particular area or climatic region. They are slower growing than commercial breeds and are generally eaten after they reach maturity - approximately 28 weeks.

When cooked, heritage turkeys are denser, have more dark meat and bring a richer, more succulent flavor to the table.

When selecting the turkey for a special occasion some people feel a heritage turkey is well worth the cost. But these turkeys can be hard to find, if you haven't ordered one in advance. Heritage turkeys are usually available between November and January.  

If you want a Heritage turkey raised specifically for you, you need to order one well in advance, as early as spring.

Heritage turkeys include the following breeds Bourbon Red, Royal Palm, Narragansett, Bronze, Slate, White Holland, and Jersey BuffWild Turkeys:

Wild Turkeys:

If your idea of selecting the turkey includes selecting the turkey in the field, wild turkeys are available. They can also be purchased from select distributors but they won't have the same flavor as a truly wild bird.

Wild turkeys are smaller and have darker meat and firmer texture than commercial turkeys. The flavor is likely to be more intense and it changes depending on what the bird has been eating. These birds can be ordered from dealers in game meat or obtained by hunting, in season.

For more information about wild turkeys and other types of turkeys see breeds and history.

Why are Heritage Turkeys So Expensive?

Most are pastured on small farms and many are given organic food.

Since proportionally very few are raised, handling costs are high. It takes longer to raise these bird since they take longer to mature (28 weeks) and they are usually sold after they have matured.

It takes more land and labor to raise turkeys on pasture. Feed is more expensive if they are given organic food to supplement their pasture dining.

How Can You Save Money Buying Your Heritage Turkey?

If you are looking for a Heritage bird try selecting the turkey from a local farmer. One of the most expensive parts of ordering a heritage turkey is the shipping.

If you can pick it up at the farm, or at the farmers market. Or, you may be able to order one through your local butcher.

Are Pasture Raised, Organic Turkeys the Only Ones You Should Buy?

No. Much of the year you can't even get them and they are more expensive.

These also may not be the best choice for deep frying or smoking where lots of extra flavor is added. You want to be able to experience the special flavor of a pasture raised, organic turkey that you have paid extra to buy.

The following links will help you to further select the best turkey:

Select Turkey by Understanding The Label: temperature, inspection and grading, classes of turkeys

Select Turkey Based on How It Was Raised and Processed: Free Range, Organic, Enhanced

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Copyright © 2009 - 2019 The Perfect Turkey
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