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Is That Really a Heritage Turkey?

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xchrom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-23-11 08:13 AM
Original message
Is That Really a Heritage Turkey?
http://www.theatlantic.com/life/archive/2011/11/is-that-really-a-heritage-turkey/248809/

Perhaps you feel like you're seeing colorful turkeys everywhere these days. Wild turkeys have rebounded in many parts of the United States as, apparently coincidentally, interest in meat from heritage turkeys has surged. Some turkey meat is marketed as coming from this or that breed, while not from true heritage turkeys. Here's a quick primer on turkey origins and some advice for finding a true heritage turkey for your Thanksgiving.

All turkeys originated from the Americas. There were at least five distinct types of wild turkey, covering territories from Central America to New England. Scientists actively debate precisely where these turkeys ranged, but there is no doubt that when Europeans arrived turkeys were abundant in vast swaths of what would become the United States. Colonist Thomas Morton recounted Native Americans telling him that every day in the woods of Massachusetts they saw more turkeys than they could count. Colonial hunters took advantage of the bounty and reported killing thirty or more turkeys a day. By 1851, the wild turkeys of Massachusetts had been wiped out. A similar scenario unfolded in other parts of the northeast.

Domesticated turkeys, by contrast, were thriving. Central American Mayans may have been the first turkey domesticators, tending two distinct turkey species long before the Spanish arrived. Southwestern peoples, including the Taos, Zuni, and Hopi later kept turkeys as well, largely for their ornamental feathers. European explorers transported turkeys back to their homelands and domesticated turkeys soon became widely disseminated in Spain, Germany, France, Italy, and England. Some were eventually transported back to the colonies; the Mayflower is believed to have carried some domesticated turkeys. Early settlers commonly raised them on American farms.

From this complicated past, several varieties have emerged, although there is understandable uncertainty about their precise origins. (Note that the American Poultry Association, the official arbiter of poultry breeds, currently does not recognize the various types as distinct breeds, recognizing only turkey "varieties.") The most successful have been the Bourbon Red, Standard Bronze, and Narragansett. The latter two are believed to descend from a strain developed in Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay region. The line was probably a cross between turkeys brought from Europe and wild American turkeys. Narragansetts and Standard Bronze turkeys, even more so, closely resemble wild turkeys, with Narragansetts being slightly smaller with feathers lighter and grayer in color.
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hobbit709 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-23-11 08:23 AM
Response to Original message
1. Damn. I thought you were talking about George the Stupid.
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muriel_volestrangler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-23-11 08:30 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. I thought it was about last night's debate
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Atman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-23-11 08:41 AM
Response to Original message
3. Where I live, wild turkeys are everywhere.
I see them in the lawn at my office, herds of them in the fields and wooded areas on my way home, I've even grazed a couple with my car as they've tried to take flight to cross the road. I'd get a shotgun, but I don't think I could deal with dressing them.
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xchrom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-23-11 09:22 AM
Response to Reply #3
5. remember wild turkeys aren't heritage birds.
i had wild turkeys living in a small park by my condo in oakland, ca.

they were funny guys -- unfortunately i think the hawks made short work of the hatchlings -- we had lots of hawks.
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Historic NY Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-23-11 09:17 AM
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4. Lots of them here in NY, they came back in droves after....
90's rabies wiped out the racoons, fox and other predators.
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DCKit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-23-11 10:35 AM
Response to Original message
6. I've got a picture here somewhere...
of six or eight wild turkeys outside my bedroom window.
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xchrom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Nov-23-11 11:17 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. love to see them! nt
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