Turkeys

We are excited to be in our eleventh year raising turkeys.   Turkeys are my very favorite part of farming!

This year, we’re growing Midget White turkeys along with a few Bourbon Red/Blue Slate crosses. Unfortunately, we won’t have any European Blacks, Bronzes or Auburns this year. (I am already making plans to remedy this next year! I miss raising the various colors and types of turkeys.)

I love the history behind each of the birds we raise, so I included it in the descriptions below.  Each of the turkeys is unique in its own way, and I wanted to be able to share some of those differences with you.  No matter the color or the origin,  ALL of our turkeys are friendly and incredibly fun to be around. I am leaving the descriptions of each of the kinds of turkeys here, even though we won’t have them available again until next year.

Black turkeys originated in Mexico, and they were taken to Europe in the 16th century where they became popular with the local farmers.  The colonists brought them to America, and some of the first domesticated turkeys on our soil were Blacks.  If a turkey had actually been a part of the first Thanksgiving meal, it would have been an ancestor of these turkeys… Our European Blacks usually finish out at 10 to 22 lbs. We do not have any Blacks available this year.

The Midget Whites are a breed developed in the 1960s by Dr. Smyth at the University of Massachusetts by crossing a Royal Palm and a commercial Broad Breasted turkey.  The market for the smaller turkeys did not develop as they had anticipated, and the flock was dispersed.  By 1971, there were only 6 birds of this breed known to be alive.  (In the early 70’s, our supplier had begun keeping a small flock of his own, as his supplier stopped raising them.  We believe his flock was unknown and not counted at that time!)  Smaller birds are back in demand, and the numbers of Midget Whites are beginning to rise again – but they remain on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy’s “Critical” list.   We are proud to be doing our part to increase their popularity and move them away from that status.   We expect our Midget Whites to weigh 8 to 18 lbs.

Bourbon Reds were developed in the late 1800’s in Bourbon County, Kentucky.  The breed comes from a cross between Buff, Bronze, and White Holland turkeys.  Bourbon Reds have a narrower breast than the other turkeys we raise, and longer legs.  Our Bourbon Red turkeys usually weigh in at 7 to 12 lbs.

Blue Slates were accepted as a breed by the American Poultry Association in 1874. They have a shape similar to the Bourbon Reds, but they grow a bit larger. The Blue Slate breed is more variable in color and definition than the other breeds. Blue Slate weights usually finish out at 8 to 20 lbs. I lost my breeding flock of Blue Slates to a raccoon after only one year, but I have continued to breed the Bourbon Red/Blue Slate crosses that originated from that original flock. I have a small flock of these Bourbon Red/Blue Slate crosses available this year. I anticipate the weights of the crosses to finish at 7 to 16 lbs.

All of our birds are humanely raised on pasture.  They have access to green grass, bugs, and sunshine…

They receive a custom ration of grain we mix here on the farm.  Their vegetarian feed contains corn, roasted soybeans, oats, organic kelp and Fertrell’s Nutri-balancer (an organic supplement which contains kelp meal, probiotics, and minerals). We choose local grains whenever possible.

Our feed does NOT contain fishmeal or any animal by-products. Our feed contains NO ANTIBIOTICS.

So…  What makes our birds different than those grown by other turkey producers?

Most farmers raising turkeys grow a breed called Giant White.  These turkeys grow the fastest, and dress out the easiest because of their white pin feathers.  At maturity, Giant Whites weigh 25 to 50 lbs.  However, you never see birds that big in the grocery store.  Why?  Because they are harvested early – sometimes as early as 14 weeks of age.  Ever notice that the turkey see in the big box store says “young turkey”?  This is what it means.  But harvesting them this young sacrifices the flavor, texture, and moistness of a mature bird.  They are then injected with solutions to give them flavor and keep them from being dry…

We believe that turkeys do not develop their full flavor until they reach maturity.  Most of our male turkeys will have “beards” at harvest time.  (A beard is a group of small black feathers in the chest area  — a sign of maturity.)  Instead of taking a bird that would grow to 30 or 40 lbs and harvesting it at 15 or 20 lbs, we grow a variety of birds that will cover a wide range of sizes as mature birds. Our birds generally weigh 8 to 28 lbs when they are fully grown. Unfortunately, because we do not have any Bronze turkeys this year, we won’t have any of the really large birds available for Thanksgiving in 2018. We will raise Bronzes again next year.

By growing our birds to maturity, and by keeping them on pasture and feeding them a completely vegetarian feed supplemented with probiotics and minerals, we believe our turkeys are some of the best you will find anywhere.  You can taste the difference!

The 2018 Turkeys are SOLD OUT.  Thank you for your support!

We do still have Boneless Turkey Breast, French Cut Turkey Breast, Turkey Drumsticks, Turkey Thighs, and Turkey Wings available.  If you would like to place an order for any of the above items for pick-up at a Farm Drop location prior to Thanksgiving, please fill out this form.

If you are interested in being placed on a WAIT list in case a turkey becomes available, please email me at tallcottonfarm@gmail.com.

I’ve created a page to compile what some of our customers have said about our turkeys and their personal experiences.  You can find it here.

Here is a slideshow of some of our previous years of raising turkeys…


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

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