Published in 1874, The American Standard of Perfection is the official breed standard for poultry in North America, and is published by the American Poultry Association; the Standard of Perfection classifies standard physical appearance, coloring and temperament for all recognized breeds of poultry, including chickens, ducks, turkeys, and geese. The American Poultry Association lists eight varieties of turkeys in its Standard of Perfection. Heritage is the term the industry considers standard turkeys, and is one of a variety of strains of domestic turkey no longer present in the majority of turkeys raised for consumption in the commercial market.
More than ten different turkey breeds are classified as heritage turkeys, including Black, Bronze, Narragansett, White Holland, Slate, Bourbon Red, Beltsville Small White, and Royal Palm. Additionally, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy recognizes the Jersey Buff, White Midget, and others. All of these varieties are Heritage Turkeys.
According to the The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, a clearing-house for information on livestock and genetic diversity, Heritage turkeys are defined by the historic, range-based production system in which they are raised. Turkeys must meet all of the following criteria to qualify as a Heritage turkey:
1. Naturally mating: the Heritage Turkey must be reproduced and genetically maintained through natural mating, with expected fertility rates of 70-80%. This means that turkeys marketed as “heritage” must be the result of naturally mating pairs of both grandparent and parent stock.
2. Long productive outdoor lifespan: the Heritage Turkey must have a long productive lifespan. Breeding hens are commonly productive for 5-7 years and breeding toms for 3-5 years. The Heritage Turkey must also have a genetic ability to withstand the environmental rigors of outdoor production systems.
3. Slow growth rate: the Heritage Turkey must have a slow to moderate rate of growth. Today’s heritage turkeys reach a marketable weight in about 28 weeks, giving the birds time to develop a strong skeletal structure and healthy organs prior to building muscle mass. This growth rate is identical to that of the commercial varieties of the first half of the 20th century.
At 25,000 raised annually, Heritage turkeys are dwarfed in production quantities compared to more than 200,000,000 industrial turkeys. The commercially bred Large White turkey developed exclusively for meat production and processing accounts for virtually the entire commercial market, with breeding stock held by three companies. Factory farmed turkeys are selectively bred for larger size and increased production of breast meat. As a result, the added extreme turkey weight renders these turkeys unable to reproduce without artificial insemination, resulting in severe immune system, cardiac, respiratory and leg problems.
Heritage turkeys are richer in flavor than industrially bred Franken-birds, and are more similar in taste to wild turkeys. The enhanced flavor of these birds is attributable the vast difference in the maturation time compared to the artificially stinted growth of industrial turkeys. As with most organic products, Heritage turkeys are more expensive than industrially bred turkeys, but are much safer and healthier to eat. Heritage turkey meat contains much higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent heart disease.
Try this fantastic FriendsEat recipe for Heritage turkey.
Description: These are gamier and smaller so they take less time to cook. Keep a look out to make sure you do not over cook it.
2 cups chardonnay
2 cups water
fresh heritage turkey at room temperature
Kosher or sea salt & fresh ground pepper
Roasting Pan with wire rack
1. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
2. Simmer the chardonnay, water, giblets and bay leaf in a sauce pan for 15 minutes.
3. With a colander, separate the broth from the solids and set the broth aside.
4. Dry the turkey and rub it inside and out with salt and pepper.
5. Insert butter between the turkey and the skin as well as on the inside the cavity.
6. Put bird in the roasting pan with a wire rack.
7. Add the broth to the bottom of the pan.
8. Oil the parchment paper on both sides (I use Olive oil)
9. Tent the roasting pan with the oiled parchment paper.
10. Use aluminum foil to attach the parchment paper to the pan.
11. Roast the bird until the thigh temperature reaches 140F-150F (don’t let the thermometer hit the bone)
12. Set the turkey aside for 10 minutes before carving.
13. Remove parchment paper at the last 30 minutes of cooking for a crunch.
November 2nd, 2009