American farmers have bred and raised Heritage Turkeys for their meat, beauty, longevity, and hardiness for generations. Heritage Turkey Breeds have become increasingly popular as awareness and demand for sustainably raised poultry has risen. Breeds like the Bourbon Red Turkey, Narragansett turkey, and the Blue Slate Turkey are now more commonly seen on the Thanksgiving table.
What is a Heritage Turkey
But what makes a turkey a heritage turkey breed? Many breeders do not guarantee that all of their heritage turkeys will exhibit all required traits. However, to officially be considered a heritage turkey, they must meet three requirements.
- Unlike commercial breeds, heritage turkeys will reproduce naturally and will thrive in free range environments. The turkeys must also be a product of natural reproduction to be considered a true heritage turkey. Because hatcheries use incubators, they will often classify their heritage breeds as “rare breeds”. We use the terms heritage breed and rare breed interchangeably to distinguish them from commercial breeds.
- Heritage Turkeys also live long and productive lives. Breeding hens can be productive for 5-7 years, and the toms productive for 3 to 5 years. Conversely, commercial turkey breeds cannot reproduce naturally and are butchered before 22 weeks.
- Lastly, heritage turkey breeds are slower to mature. This allows them to build strong skeletal structure and healthy organs before building substantial muscle mass (meat). Most heritage breeds will reach prime market weight around 28 weeks. They will develop more of the rich dark muscle meat that is known to be the most flavorful in poultry.
We sell a few of the most popular heritage turkey breeds available in the United States. Enjoy browsing through our breeds, and check out our small turkey specials if you are looking for just a small flock of heritage turkeys.