Heritage Turkey Breeds

With the rise of commercial turkey breeds, there has been a decline in the number of heritage breeds that used to be reared in the past for their meat. Most heritage turkeys cannot compete with modern ones that have higher meat production rates. 

However, heritage turkeys possess several noteworthy advantages. They can reproduce naturally, live relatively longer, and, according to some food critics and chefs, taste better than industrially bred turkeys. This has led to an increased interest in rearing these turkeys, but most of them are at risk, with an estimated 25,000 total heritage turkeys left (in contrast, there are more than 200,000,000 commercially reared turkeys).

Heritage Turkey Breeds

List of Rare Heritage Turkey Breeds

Turkey BreedOriginWeight (in lbs.)
AuburnUnited States, specifically PhiladelphiaMale: 35
Female: 19
Beltsville Small WhiteUnited StatesMale: 15
Female: 9
Bourbon RedUnited StatesMale: 33
Female: 18
Blue SlateUnited StatesMale: 33
Female: 18
BronzeUnited KingdomMale: 38
Female: 22
Jersey BuffUnited States, specifically New JerseyMale: 28
Female: 18
Midget WhiteUnited StatesMale: 13
Female: 10
NarragansettUnited States, specifically New EnglandMale: 28
Female: 16
Norfolk BlackUnited KingdomMale: 23
Female: 14
Royal PalmUnited StatesMale: 22
Female: 12
White HollandIn the Netherlands, however, this is unclearMale: 33
Female: 18


1. What is the best heritage turkey for meat?

The Bourbon Red is believed to have the most flavorful meat out of all heritage turkeys.

2. What is the difference between heirloom and heritage turkeys?

Heirloom turkeys are generally a cross between modern and heritage turkeys to imbibe some of the properties of the heritage breed in the modern breed.

3. Can heritage turkeys free range?

Yes, heritage turkeys are actually better than modern turkeys at grazing and free ranging. However, heritage turkeys are more likely to fly away than modern breeds, so raising them on a free range carries some risk. Also, free range turkeys risk being attacked by predators like foxes, feral dogs and cats, and birds of prey like eagles, falcons, and hawks.

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