Raising Turkeys on the Homestead

The best time to begin raising turkeys on the homestead is late May or early June. Learn about what types of turkeys to raise, when a turkey is ready for butchering and how to roast one once the holidays arrive.

| February 2013

Enjoy fresher, organic, better-tasting food all the time. With help from The Backyard Homestead (Storey Publishing, 2009), you can grow the vegetables and fruits your family loves; keep bees; raise chickens, goats or even a cow. Also learn how to cook, preserve and pickle the fruits of your labor. Late spring or the start of summer is the best time to start raising turkeys for Thanksgiving. Learn the process of raising turkeys from poult to dinner table in this excerpt from chapter 5, “Poultry for Eggs and Meat.” 

You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: The Backyard Homestead.

With a gobble-gobble here and a gobble-gobble there, the turkey has pecked its way across the United States for hundreds of years to become an American icon.

Traditionally, small farmers raised turkeys both for meat production and for pest control (gobblers are avid eaters of insects like the tobacco hookworm and the tomato hornworm). By 1970, the production of turkeys had dramatically changed from small-scale farm production to large-scale confinement production on an industrial-type farm.

Today, industrial farms produce almost all of the 280 million turkeys required in the United States and Canada to meet the demand for holiday birds and turkey products ranging from turkey bacon to soup. Over 99 percent of the breeding stock, which is essentially held by just three multinational companies, is tied to merely a few strains of Broad Breasted White turkeys that can no longer breed naturally.

This movement toward industrial turkey production has left many of the old heritage turkeys, such as the Standard Bronze, the Bourbon Red, and the Narragansett, in trouble. In 1997, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) considered turkeys to be among the most critically endangered domestic animals and the most vulnerable to extinction.

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