A Brief History of Heritage Turkeys

A Brief History of Heritage Turkeys

The turkey existed both wild and domesticated in America at the time of its discovery in 1492. Many excavations in the Tennessee Valley contained turkey bones.  The evidence is clear that wild turkeys served as a source of food for Native Americans as early as 1000 A.D.  Turkeys were first brought to Spain from America in 1498. From Spain the turkeys spread over Europe, being introduced in to England between 1524 and 1541.

The first domesticated turkeys to be grown in the United States came not from the wild turkeys indigenous to the United States but ones brought back from Europe.  They were bronze and black in feather color.   In the region of Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island there was developed a local “breed” of turkey that crossed the domesticated with the wild.  This local breed was the forerunner of the Narragansett variety.  

In the 1830’s there was developed, in the vicinity of Point Judith, Rhode Island, another breed by the further crossing of the domesticated Narragansett Bay turkey with wild turkeys — these birds were called for the first time by the name Bronze. The Bronze turkey would become the king of turkeys and the foundation of all other heritage breeds, and also lines of the modern commercial turkeys of today.  

Today, the descendants of those original Bronze turkeys are still being raised on one farm in the United States: the Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch led by farmer Frank Reese! These birds are rare and we must eat them to save them, thus incentivizing more farmers to raise them. Order now! Supplies are limited!

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