Types of Turkey
When decision time comes, there are numerous types of turkey that can be had for Thanksgiving, Christmas and other special occasions. Selecting the best ones depends on your dinner intention, budget, health requirements, and accessibility to particular types of turkey. You could easily just purchase the ones available in the market — the “regular” ones which are mostly from the Broad Breasted White or Large White turkeys.
The American Poultry Association (APA) has listed eight recognized breeds and varieties as of 2010, which includes Beltsville Small White, Black, Bourbon Red, Bronze, Narragansett, Royal Palm, Slate, and White Holland. But there are other types that may fit what you want on the dinner table this year.
The American Livestock Breed Conservancy (ALBC) defines the heritage turkey according to “the historic, range-based production system in which they are raised.” In particular, heritage turkeys must meet the following criteria: a) they “must be reproduced and genetically maintained through natural mating,” b) they must have “a long productive outdoor lifespan,” c) they must have “a slow to moderate rate of growth,” wherein they “reach a marketable weight in about 28 weeks.”
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a National Organic Program that certifies food and agricultural products as organic. Turkeys are given the USDA Organic seal if they meet the organic regulations standards. Particularly, “turkeys must be raised with no antibiotics, no growth enhancers and only organic feed, and they must be given access to the outdoors,” according to the environmental group, Natural Resources Defense Council. As such, the turkeys can be “a heritage breed or the more common Broadbreasted White.” Outside of the USDA, look for the organic seal issued in your own home country.
Free-range and pastured turkey
This type of turkey simply means “the poultry has been allowed access to the outside,” according to the labelling definition of the USDA. Instead of the usual round of antibiotics and feeds given to large-scale commercially-bred turkeys, the diet of free-range turkeys “were augmented with grubs, worms, and grass, improving the flavor of the meat; the exercise supposedly improves the texture,” according to the online specialty foods magazine, The Nibble. Meanwhile pastured turkeys refer to turkeys that have been raised outdoors and thus forage for their food.
The wild turkey which is native to North America, were found by early European immigrants to the continent. After populations of the wild turkey dipped in 1930 America, efforts to restore them after World War II were accomplished, according to the National Wild Turkey Federation. The domesticated turkey we know today descended from the Meleagris gallopavo gallopavo. They are procured through hunting and prepared as one would farm-raised turkeys.
Turkey meat (dark, white, and ground meat)
Turkey can be further categorized according to its dark and white meats. Since the bird is most often active, its legs and thighs contain dark meat whereas its breast is comprised of white meat. Dark meats have more flavor but higher amount of fat compared to the white meat. Ground turkey meat is also sold separately, for use in hamburger patties, meatballs, and other turkey recipes.