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Top 10 Best and Most Popular Turkey Breeds to Raise

Sometimes the breeds of turkeys are very confusing since some are very similar, but in this article, we will tell you what are the different types of turkeys that exist. Turkeys are well-known free-range animals in the world, raised on farms for their meat. This bird is also part of several cultures and traditions in the world. Turkeys are animals that can inherit many traits from their parents, including meekness, lightness, good health, good mother ability, good fixation ability, frequent egg-laying, and many others, including genes for the color

Many species of turkeys or turkeys exist as officially unrecognized varieties or as recognized varieties in other countries. The original genotype of domestic turkeys was Bronze. All other color varieties are due to mutations of the Bronze genotype. This limited genetic variation may be why the APA (American Poultry Association) originally categorized the various colors of turkeys as varieties and not as breeds.

The Best and Most Popular Turkey Breeds

1. Broad Breasted White Turkey

Broad Breasted White Turkey image © nyc.streetsblog.org

The broad-breasted white turkey breed is the most widely used domesticated breed of turkey commercially. These birds have larger breasts, which sometimes makes them unable to reproduce without human help (typically through artificial insemination). They produce more breast meat and their pin feathers are less visible when the body is dressed due to their white color. These properties have made the breed popular in commercial turkey production, but slow food enthusiasts argue that the development of this breed and methods in commercial turkey production have come at a cost of less flavor.

These birds are grown in large, fully automated feedlots, which can house up to 10,000 birds. The growth process of these birds has been so well refined that they often weigh more than 40 pounds. Average birds are typically 38 to 40 pounds. Due to their size, they cannot fly and are prone to health problems associated with being overweight (due to excess muscle), such as heart disease, respiratory failure, and joint damage; even if these turkeys are not slaughtered, they are generally short-lived as a result. 

Broad-breasted white turkeys also have a very high percentage of hatched eggs, making turkey eggs for food a rare delicacy.

2. Bronze Turkey

Bronze Turkey image © learnnaturalfarming.com

The bronze turkey (standard bronze) is a breed of domestic turkey. The name refers to its plumage, which has an iridescent bronze-like sheen. This bird had been the most popular turkey throughout most of American history, but its popularity waned after the mid-20th century. Later in its history, the breed was divided into two distinct types: the broad-chested tan breed and the standard tan breed.

Bronze or tan turkeys are the product of crossing domestic turkeys brought from England with wild turkeys. These matings produced a bird that was larger and more robust than European turkeys, and slower-moving than wild turkeys. This class of turkey was first admitted to the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection in 1874. Later, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, some bronze turkeys were selected to be larger in size. They were known as the Broad Chest Bronze, to differentiate them from the original type of bird that was raised according to the Standard of Perfection of the breeds, and thus it was called the Standard (or Unimproved) Bronze.

3. Bourbon Red Turkey

Bourbon Red Turkey image credit YouTube

The Bourbon Red turkey is a breed of a domestic turkey named for its unique reddish plumage and from Bourbon County, Kentucky. The breed standard indicates that mature males weigh 15 kilograms (33 pounds), and mature hens (females) weigh 8.2 kilograms (18 pounds). The breed standard indicates that this type of turkey should weigh 10.4 kilograms (23 pounds) for males and 6.3 kilograms (14 pounds) for hens of slaughter age (28 weeks).

The feathers of this variety of turkey are of a dark base color, with white primary feathers on the tail characterized by a soft red stripe and white flight feathers; both on the tail and on the wings they have chestnut-colored feathers. The standard allows a total of 30% red feathers in the tail before the bird is disqualified. Red Bourbon turkeys have been unrefined for sale for too long due to a lack of selective breeding to preserve the breed.

4. Norfolk Black Turkey

Norfolk Black Turkey image ©AnimalHealthEquipment

The Norfolk Black turkey, sometimes known as Spanish black or black turkey, is a breed of domestic turkey. The black turkey was developed in Europe from the Aztec turkeys originally brought from Mexico by Spanish explorers. Despite the nicknames in “Spanish” and “English” (England), birds of this type live in many European nations. Originally, black-colored turkeys were a relative rarity among New World herds (in America), but Europeans were highly selective for this trait until it became predominant. The ‘Black Turkey’ is generally considered the oldest breed of turkey in the UK.

Black turkeys were shipped to the holds of ships on the transatlantic voyage from Europe to the New World and were raised by early settlers. Ironically, it is likely that the turkey eaten at the first Thanksgiving meal was from European birds, rather than wild turkeys native to the continent, although these are descended from the same bird. Later, the blacks were crossed with the wild turkey to help produce breeds such as the bronze turkey and the Narragansett turkey. They remained a commercially grown variety in the US until the early 20th century.

5. White Holland Turkey

White Holland Turkey image © breedslist.com

The White Holland Turkey is an ancient class of domestic turkey known for its white plumage. This turkey, whose connection to the Netherlands is unfounded, originated from crosses of European white turkeys (re) imported to North America and crossed with native birds. The turkey was first recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1874, and today these animals are considered a hereditary breed of turkey.

The standard weights of the bird today are 36 pounds for males and 20 for hens (females). The White Holland Turkey is currently listed as “threatened” by The Livestock Conservancy in the United States. The Standard of Perfection does not distinguish between the white Dutch and the Broad-breasted white turkey, although the white Dutch turkey is known for its hardiness, smaller chest, and longer legs. The same has happened in Great Britain, and all-white turkeys can be described by breeders as “British white” birds.

5. Slate Turkey

Slate Turkey image © birdbaron.com

The slate turkey is a breed of domestic turkey known for the slate-gray color of its plumage. Lighter birds are sometimes called lavender turkeys. Slate turkeys can actually be any number of shades between pure black and white, but only ash-gray birds are eligible to be displayed under the American Poultry Association’s directive. of Perfection ”, which they admitted as a variety in 1874.

This class of turkeys is listed as Critically Endangered by the American Livestock Cried Breeds Conservancy, and meets the definition of an inherited breed of turkey. Slate turkeys are among the most beautiful heirloom turkey breeds. The adult Slate turkey hen can weigh around 14 pounds and an adult male can weigh around 23 pounds.

7. Narragansett Turkey

Narragansett Turkey image © Wikipedia

The Narragansett turkey is a breed of turkey that descends from a cross between the Eastern wild turkey and the domestic turkey. According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, the Narragansett turkey is a “historic variety, unique to North America” ​​and is named after Narragansett Bay. The breed is prized for its excellent temperament that combines a calm disposition with good maternal skills. They mature early, are good egg producers, have excellent quality meat, and when kept free, they don’t stray too far from home.

This Narragansett turkey has plumage with black, gray, bronze, and white feathers. It resembles the bronze turkey but has matte gray or black feathers that replace the distinctive copper color of the bronze turkey. This type of turkey sometimes has white feather bars on its wings due to a genetic mutation not found outside of the United States. It has a black beard, a horn-colored bill, and a mostly featherless head and neck that range from red to bluish-white. Male Narragansett turkeys weigh between 22 and 28 pounds and chickens between 12 and 16 pounds. They can run fast, fly well, and prefer to spend their nights sleeping in trees.

8. Beltsville Small White

Beltsville Small White image © grit.com

The Beltsville Small White Turkey is a breed of domestic turkey. The name of the bird is due to its physical characteristics; It is relatively small in size and totally white plumage, as well as its place of origin: USDA’s Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Maryland. As a result of being specifically developed for smaller urban homes, the breed was never large enough to meet the demands of restaurants.

Beltsville white turkeys were developed beginning in 1934 in response to market research that said consumers wanted a small to medium-sized turkey with no dark feathers. In a breeding program at the Beltsville Center that lasted from 1934 to 1941, the USDA used the genetics of the wide-breasted white turkey, Narragansett turkey, bronze turkey, and the red bourbon turkey. The breed was used commercially in the 1940s and was officially recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1951. By the 1970s, it had all but disappeared, and the broad-breasted white type had come into prominence. It is still extremely rare today and is listed as Critical.

9. Dindon Rouge des Ardennes

Dindon Rouge des Ardennes © ardennes-toujours.fr

The Dindon Rouge des Ardennes is a breed of turkey introduced in the 16th century. It almost disappeared, but its aging was resumed in 1985, especially in Champagne-Ardenne. It is a bird with well-defined characteristics: the plumage is red, the color of fresh rust, the red tail is lighter, and the large wing feathers are more or less shaded red.

The male specimens have feathers that are bordered by a fine network of very dark brown color, the female is a lighter red, the thighs are thick and strong, the legs are pink. It is a robust breed, with relatively slow growth (seven to eight months), good layers, and good incubators. This turkey needs space and also flies very well.

10. Royal Palm Turkey

Royal Palm Turkey © purelypoultry.com

The Royal Palm turkey is a small breed of turkey with two-tone plumage: all plumage is white, each feather at its end is marked with a transverse black bar followed by a narrow white border.

This turkey comes from the crossing of two breeds, turkeys have the same plucking characteristics, where the black bars on the tip of the feathers are replaced. Something very strange. The but of the male turkey varies from 6 to 8 kilograms and the female from 4 to 5 kilograms.

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