Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Heritage turkey vs broad breasted

I got a call from a fellow today who had purchased a "heritage breed" turkey from a local consumer coop. The coop does a good job of offering good quality produce and meats, and i was pretty sure that he'd been sold a heritage bird. He was concerned that the breast looked "collapsed" or "misshapen". I asked him a few questions and he's probably got a heritage bird, but here's what a heritage bird looks like next to a broadbreasted turkey.

But there are several things about heritage birds that aren't really obvious. first, they look different than a standard turkey.

Both of the birds in this picture are 12lbs. The one on the left is one of my heritage birds, raised on pasture. This particular bird is a young blue slate tom turkey, about 7 months old.

The one on the right is a "fresh" "free range" bird. "our birds have access to the outdoors and fresh air". This usually means they're raised in a barn, and sometime late in their life a door opens and they can look outside. I'm a little cynical, but at $.99/lb, it can't be very good.

You'll notice that my bird is quite a bit narrower than the broad breasted bird. This narrow shape is because my bird can (and did) actually fly. The broad breasted bird probably never did, and cannot. The red dot in the breast of the broad breasted bird is the pop-up thermometer.

Looking at the outside of the bird, the thing that is pretty obvious is that my bird has larger amounts of fat under its skin. This will result in a beter tasting bird -- basted in its own fat. Andrea is pinching first my bird, and then the broad breasted bird

pastured bird

Broad breasted bird
Notice in those pictures that the skin appears thinner on the broad breasted bird. This is a function of the amount of fat in the skin. the veins in the broad breasted bird are much more visible.

Just a note: the broad breasted bird was sold as "fresh". The body cavity was frozen solid. I sell birds "fresh" that are never frozen, and most of them are delivered to the customers on the same day they're processed, packed in ice.

The internal organs are very different. on the left is my pastured bird. On the right is the broad breasted bird.
The top organ is the gizzard. My turkeys gizzard is considerably larger and covered with a layer of fat, showing that the bird used its gizzard and had a good life. The broad breasted gizzard is smaller, less than half the size, and has no fat to speak of.
The middle organ is the liver. Mine is firm to the touch and uniform in color. The broad breasted is watery, spreading out a little like jello. this may be a result of it being frozen. It is also uniform in color.
The hearts are both about the same size and consistency.

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