Congleton, Cheshire, United Kingdom
Posted Sep 25, 2012
This is the meat producing turkey par excellence. Commercially this bird is very important and we had neighbours who reared hundreds. But, in terms of turkeys we only ever reared enough for ourselves and our family.
As poults, they need warmth and the truth is that they have been reared to be too heavy for their bone structure. They also have the traditional turkey instincts but not the intelligence to realize that they cannot behave that way. They wan to roost up high and then they fall down and break their necks. Broken legs are common and splinting is often required.
They may eventually become so heavy that they cannot even move. And they are mean... unless you are feeding them. Feed them and they crowd round you gobbling madly and trying to get at the food. Because they are so heavy they also tend to fall into food troughs and water systems so cleaning out will be more of an effort than most other birds.
If you want a huge bird for the Christmas table then these might be for you. But if you have never raised turkeys before they are not a bird for the beginner. They need appropriate housing and lots of looking after. They are definitely not long-term pets, size and temperament mitigate against that.
I do not think they taste that good either (that's the food writer in me). Heritage and rarer varieties will give you much more pleasure, both to care for and to keep long term if that is what you want to do.
For intensive rearing to get lots of birds with a nigh meat content then the broad-breasted white turkey might be a good choice. But if you want to rear less intensively and get a better tasting bird, give me a black or bronze turkey any day.