According to the National Turkey Federation, nearly 88% of Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving. Last year that amounted to 46 million birds, average weight 16 pounds. That’s about 736 million pounds of turkey being consumed, and probably 99.9% came from one breed – the Broad Breasted White.
The Broad Breasted White, which was only developed in the 1960s, has become, far and away, the #1 turkey for consumption in the U.S. Why? Because it’s the best tasting? Not at all. Because it’s the healthiest? Not even close. It’s because the Broad Breasted White grows the biggest, fastest. In fact, they're usually ready to be processed at just 12 weeks old.
Broad Breasted White Turkeys are bred to have such large breasts that they have trouble standing and walking. In fact, they can’t even mate – they have to be artificially inseminated to reproduce. They’re hatched in incubators, raised on factory farms in barns full of hundreds of other turkeys, and they spend their whole life eating fortified corn and being given antibiotics to prevent the diseases their selective breeding makes them prone to get. What’s that look like? Like this:
So about only good thing you can say about the Broad Breasted White is that they're cheap, because they grow big and fast. But at what cost to our health, the animals, and the environment (not to mention flavor)?
There are alternatives to the Broad Breasted White, and one of them is Joyce Farms' Heritage Black Turkey. The American Poultry Association lists less than a dozen heritage turkey breeds that meet its Standard of Perfection, and our Heritage Black Turkey is one of them.
What are those standards? Let’s review them.
In order to be considered a heritage variety, a turkey has to mate naturally, and its genetic legacy must be bred naturally. Our Heritage Black Turkey is an old breed, one of the first to be developed from Native American stocks. It may well be the same breed of turkey that the Pilgrims feasted on during their first Thanksgiving. So it hasn’t been selectively bred to be anything other than a turkey.
A heritage turkey has to be free range, living a long and productive life outdoors. Our birds are raised on a small family farm in North Carolina using our “never EVER” standards of purity, which means absolutely no antibiotics. What does that look like? Like this:
And finally, a heritage turkey should grow slowly. Our Heritage Black Turkeys are allowed to grow and mature at their own pace, and we don’t process any turkey until we know it’s ready to be put on your table and enjoyed.
And you will enjoy it. As one food writer said, “the modern [Broad Breasted White] turkey has less flavor than its forbearers” so consumers have to add flavor with spice rubs, gravy and cranberry sauce.
Heritage turkeys taste better – they regularly win in taste tests against industrially raised turkeys and are the choice of top chefs across the country.
Chefs also love our Heritage Black Turkeys for another reason: because they aren’t bred to have a grotesquely oversized breast, they have more of a balance between white and dark meat so they’re easier to roast and get evenly cooked.
Holiday meals are a time of celebration, when people go all out to create the best possible experience, a once-a- year feast that should be something everyone looks forward to and will remember. You could eat the turkey that 99.9% of America eats, or you could join the .1% and make your holiday meal unique and much more memorable. All it takes is a Heritage Black Turkey from Joyce Farms.