Friday, August 30, 2013

Why do we raise broad-breasted bronze turkeys?

I've never been a fan of any type of livestock that does not fall into the heritage category, so it often comes as a surprise that we sometimes raise broad-breasted bronze turkeys. Why do we do it?

 There are a few reasons. It all started when we had turkey customers who wanted birds bigger than the 16 pound heritage turkeys that we normally have available for Thanksgiving. I chose the broad-breasted bronze rather than the white broad-breasted because no one has really worked on increasing the size of the broad breasted in the past 50 years or so -- not since they started trying to increase the size of the white turkey. I'd read on forums that people had white turkeys that weighed as much as 50 pounds! And what person wants a 50-pound turkey? No one! Corporations, however, like them because they're a cheap way to get ground meat and filets.

I was a little surprised and disappointed initially when we had some bronze turkeys get up to 38 and 43 pounds. Of course, no one bought the 43-pound turkey, so we separated the breast from the rest of the turkey -- it weighed 24 pounds! -- and we foolishly cooked it for Thanksgiving. Even after giving people left-overs to take home, we wound up eating turkey for the next week, and we finally gave the rest of it to the dogs.

At some point it occurred to me that these big boys do serve a purpose. I actually really like ground turkey meat. The dark meat is very similar to other dark meats, such as beef and pork, so it makes excellent chili and burgers. And the ground white meat also makes good burgers, but with some additions -- like mixing crumbled feta into the meat. So, now we raise a few simply for ground meat.

Oh, and there is one more thing I like about them. While we have to raise the heritage turkeys in moveable pens because they can fly over fences, the broad breasted can't fly, so they stay put, and we can let them free range in the pasture, which makes them a little easier to care for. Now that my children have grown up and moved out, I can't ask them to go get the turkeys that are wandering down the road. Broad-breasted turkeys also can't fly up into the trees, meaning that when it's time for us to catch them and take them to the processor, we will be able to catch them.

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