TALUS WIND RANCH HERITAGE TURKEYS
American Heritage Turkeys have almost disappeared in this country due to the commercial popularity of the industrial-raised, Broadbreasted White Turkeys. The heritage birds are experiencing a revival, as food lovers have discovered their better texture and flavors.
The Broadbreasted White Turkeys are produced because of their large, white meaty breast. The breasts of these turkeys are so large that they are unable to reproduce naturally. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, without artificial insemination performed by humans, this variety of bird would become extinct in just one generation.
Industrial turkeys are often injected with saline solution and vegetable oils in an attempt to help improve the taste and texture of the meat. These factory farmed birds tend to be dry and tasteless, so cooks have developed a variety of methods to try to improve the taste. Turkeys are now marinated, brined, deep fried and covered with syrups, spices and herbs.
Talus Wind Ranch Turkeys
The Rio Grande Wild Turkey is native to the semi-arid areas of the southern Great Plains states: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Northeastern Mexico. It received its common name from the Rio Grande River, which is the water supply bordering the brushy scrub, arid country of some of its prime range in western Texas and northeastern Mexico.
The Standard Bronze Turkey was the Thanksgiving bird of choice from the 1850s until about 1940, according to Frank Reese, Jr. of Good Shepherd Ranch, Kansas, a leader in bringing Heritage turkeys back into production. Most farmers kept a range flock, using the birds for insect control as well as eating. In the 1940s, Reese says, millions of Bronzes and Narragansetts were being raised for the U.S. market when a bigger-breasted, white-feathered British turkey arrived on the scene. “It had a shorter breast bone and shorter legs, but the same muscle mass,” Reese says.
The U.S. turkey industry quickly shifted to this new variety of bird, but the turkey couldn’t reproduce on its own because of its disproportionate shape. “Fertility went to nothing,” Reese says. “They tried using standard Bronze toms on the broad-breasted female birds at first, but it messed up the genetics and they got mixed lots, so they went to AI [artificial insemination]. And color [the Bronzes, Narragansetts and other heritage turkeys with patterned or colored feathers] went out the door.”
Today, the U.S. turkey industry produces nearly 300 million birds annually in large “barns” that each house thousands of birds. These turkeys are strains of the broad-breasted white; all are so top-heavy from selection for the big breast that they develop joint problems as they mature that make walking difficult. They grow to a slaughter weight of 10 to 15 pounds in only 2 1⁄2 months’ time.
Heritage breeds, in contrast, need six or seven months to mature to the point they make good eating, but Reese says their rich taste makes them worth the wait. Definition of a Heritage Turkey
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