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November 28, 2008


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I wonder where I can fine this breed here. I am thinking of trying my hand in turkey farming in Kenya.Here we only have the black type.


I had a difference experience, we raised blue slate, bourbon red and narragansett, they did take longer to get to size, but foraged so well that food cost was minimal, they seldom ate any grain once they were big enough to cut loose (about 6 weeks old) we and customers were thrilled with the flavor, they weighed between 8 lbs and 16 lbs and we are excited to do more next year


Gaaah! I wish I could invite mylesf to come help you process on Monday. The good news is I have 160 of my own to do this weekend lol. Good luck with your featherman gear. If your birds dress out around 5 pounds, I really think the roto-dunker is limited to two birds at once which will still do 60-80 birds per hour probably enough for your operation at this time. Let me know your thoughts on the new gear especially if you disagree with me. Maybe I'm doing something wrong.They do look good. You have done a great job. We find they tend to clog up at the top of the drinker where the hose goes to the manifold(?). If you keep the algae scrubbed out of the buckets that shouldn't be a problem though.

Angela Krebs

I am glad that people are becoming more aware of the inputs that are a part of raising heritage breeds.
Bourbon Red heritage turkeys have just been brought back from near the brink of disappearing from American agriculture. As with the other heritage breeds, they were nearly lost to the commercial turkey's faster growth and larger breast. But organizations like the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and concerned poultry breeders have brought Bourbons back. Now, although the population of Bourbon Red Turkeys has been stabalized, they have not been improved. Good selection for desirable carcass traits, proper weight, type, conformation, and color is needed. There are many lines of Bourbons out there that do not come near to meeting the American Poultry Association Standard yet. It is unfortunate that you had to experience the results that you did, but it shows how much work we have to do to recover the years of effort and expertise that our forefathers put into developing the Bourbon, and how much was lost when the commercial, broad-breasted turkeys took over the market.
Here in Montana, I, my brother, and my daughter are working on improving the Bourbon Red Turkey breed. We have two separate breeding flocks on 2 separate farms. We raised about 220 young Bourbon Red Turkeys this year. The dressed weights on birds aged 24 to 30 weeks old were 12 lbs to 16.3 lbs for toms. This does not include the weights of the heaviest young toms in the flock since we selected and held back or sold the top 20 % of toms for breeding. If some of these heaviest toms would have been harvested, I expect they would have weighed 17 to 18 lbs dressed. I have retained 5 of these "best" toms (aged 28 to 30 weeks) for next year's breeding season, and they are all achieving the 23 lb American Poultry Asssociation's Standard of Perfection weight for a young (under 1 year old) Bourbon Red tom. Our hens weighed from 8 to 10 lbs dressed (As with the toms, most of our best hens were retained or sold as breeding stock).
We continue to encourage farmers and consumers to promote and enjoy the Bourbon Red Turkey. Their ability to naturally breed and raise their own poults makes them an invaluable resource for American families and farmers.

Carl Buchholz

Just found this post and am impressed. I live in Oregon and we purchased turkeys this spring to raise. We have 24 Auburn turkeys and 8 of the broad breasted whites. Recently built a plucker and hoping folks will realize the cost structure and value when purchasing heritage birds.

Bill Newman

I have two different breeds of Turkeys, Royal Palm and Bourbon Reds. They are year old, one hen is two years old. I was wondering why the tail feathers of the males are not filling out. The feathers are real short along with the wing feathers. Got any answers.


It's a shame your customers were expecting the same kind of bird. I never really liked turkey before the local hertitage bird I got last fall.

It's the first time I actually ate all the breast meat at home and didn't send it off with guests. I'm usually more of a dark meat lover, but this whole bird was wonderful!

I believe I paid $7 for an 8 or 9 lb. bird. Totally worth it.

Helen  Williams

I paid $10 per pound for my 20 pound heritage turkey this year and went from home in Santa Cruz to Berkeley to get it. I didn't get to eat it, my darling husband having given it away to his employee by mistake. But I still don't regret buying it--at least someone got to enjoy it and I like supporting food production by dedicated farmers like you whom I can trust. I absolutely don't mind paying more for my meat--turkey, pork, chicken, lamb, beef--knowing where it comes from. I bought a heritage bird from you when you sold them and it was nice being able to get it locally. But when I tell people how much those birds cost (when they ask), they can't imagine it. Still, when you feed a bunch of people, have leftovers for days, and then soup--all tasting most excellently--why wouldn't it cost that much? But thanks for this post Rebecca because I want to know how the production affects you the farmer as it informs my choices even more.


This post is a shining example of what a great blog you have.

Illuminating the steps and issues involved in raising said birds to us unknowing masses is the key to avoid these clashes of expectations. I really do see this as a moment for education - one that I believe would override money grumbling.

I've seen this same issue in the context of handmade pottery. Having to explain why a handmade coffee cup is not $12 may be frustrating and feel insulting at times... but with the appropriate tone and mind set- it can turn into a light bulb moment for the consumer.

step by step- your blog will do this for you. I look forward to the day when we as consumers can get over our cheap food fetish.


It's always dismaying to me when I hear people complain about the facts of farming. If you want a breasty turkey for $1.49 a pound, you're talking Butterball. If you want a tasty bird that lived the way turkeys are supposed to live, you're going to pay more per pound and you're going to have to deal with the fact that evolutionarily, thighs are more important than breasts to an animal that goes on two legs and scratches for its food.


Not all Slow Food people are as out of touch with reality as the one who thinks a farmer can raise heritage birds on pasture and organic feed and sell them for $4 per pound. I talked to a couple of the local folks shortly before Thanksgiving who said they would be glad to pay more than $8 per pound for a local heritage turkey and worried that farmers weren't charging enough.

More people need to understand how expensive it is to raise Bourbon Reds and other heritage breeds to the minimum of 6 or 7 months of age necessary, but then and only then, they *do* have exceptional flavor and texture.

Diana Foss

I again paid big bucks for a Heritage Foods turkey this year, and I would dearly love to be able to purchase an heirloom bird from you and Jim. (Although I'm also happy to support the Good Shepherd folks who are keeping the breeds alive.)

But I totally support you in doing what you need to do to make a living farming the way you want to farm. A national concern like Heritage Foods can find enough people like me to make a profit; much harder for a small farm in Watsonville.

With all of the fetishizing of turkey at Thanksgiving, it's weird that it's so undervalued. I didn't actually see anyone doing it this year, but not too long ago, Safeway would give away a turkey free with $100 worth of groceries. Talk about a commodity. And let's not get into the horrible videos from the big turkey slaughterhouses.

Happy Thanksgiving, and I'm so looking forward to my half a TLC pig!

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