At ‘Heritage Turkeys’ we have breeding groups of all UK varieties of turkey on the Rare Breed Survival Trust ‘Watchlist’, and these are the:
What do we mean by a ‘Traditional Turkey’?
Turkeys are native to the Americas and were originally domesticated by the Aztecs in Mexico. They were taken to Spain around
1500 and were introduced as a Black turkey into England in 1524. This Black turkey eventually became known as Norfolk Black and is generally accepted as the first variety of turkey in Britain.
Today’s commercial turkey is generally selected to efficiently produce meat at the lowest possible cost, and they are undoubtedly an excellent converter of feed to breast meat. But the result of this ‘improvement’ has generally been the loss of the bird’s ability to successfully mate or produce fertile eggs without intervention. In short, most commercial turkeys are unable to sustain themselves naturally.
The few commercial varieties that can still reproduce naturally are rarely left to do so, and as they are genetically predisposed toward intensive management, being excellent feed converters and efficiency driven, they have lost the ability to withstand the environmental rigors of outdoor systems.
Naturally Mating: The traditional turkey must reproduce and be genetically maintained to an agreed standard through natural mating and have an expected fertility rate of 70-80%.
Long Productivity: The traditional turkey must have a long productive lifespan with breeding hens remaining viable for 5-7 years and breeding toms for 3-5 years.
Outdoor Capability: The traditional turkey must have a genetic ability to withstand the environmental rigors of outdoor production systems.
Slow Maturity: The traditional turkey must have a slow to moderate growth rate of about 28 weeks to table weight as this gives
the necessary time to develop a strong skeletal structure and healthy organs prior to building muscle mass.