Canadian Poultry Magazine

Features 100th anniversary Key Developments
Are Broad Breasted Bronze a Detriment?

April 1947


February 5, 2013
By Fred W. Beeson

Topics

In reviewing the poultry industry at the Annual Meeting of the Western Canada Produce Association held at Edmonton February, 17-18th, the Chairman of the Egg and Poultry Committee, Mr. W. A. Landreth, Winnipeg, had this to say regarding the production of Broad Breasted Turkeys:

“There has been a definite trend to expand the production of Broad Breasted Turkeys in Canada. In view of the fact that this trend in the United States has resulted in a major disaster to the turkey industry, immediate action to guard against a similar development in Canada should be taken. If turkeys are to be consumed in any volume, either in Canada of for export, the greatest percentage of the turkeys produced must be of a market type suitable for household use. We were pleased to note that the major award at Royal Toronto Fair went to a Saskatchewan breeder of what we term good market type turkeys. We regret to note that many Western hatcheries, featuring the sale of turkey poults this season, are emphasizing the fact that they are of the Broad Breasted type. An increase in the marketing of heavy turkeys, weighing over twenty pounds, can only lead to disaster for most of those producers who have been encouraged to produce a market type of turkey unsuited for household use. Properly finished and fattened A Grade Turkeys, weighing 8 to 12 pounds for hens and 12 to 18 pounds for young toms is what our Canadian householders require and this is the weight range in which the householder is interested. It is just as impractical to produce in any volume turkeys dressing out at 20 pounds or over as it would be to adopt a production program of producing bacon hogs dressing out 400 pounds and over.”

Taking Mr. Landreth’s last sentence first, we think he has been particularly unhappy in his choice of comparisons. A 400 pound hog would be, of course, far too heavy in fat and also of an age where some deterioration in meat quality could be expected. A 25 or even a 30 pound turkey, however, does not carry any greater percentage of fat than a 15 pound bird. It does, though, carry a far greater proportion of meat to bone than the smaller bird. Further, it is still a young bird, not necessarily over six or seven months.

We feel Mr. Landreth is not doing the turkey industry any good in throwing cold water on the finest meat breed in the turkey world.

Manitoba has not yet had any appreciable number of honest-to-goodness broad breasted turkeys to display in their shop windows. The public has been offered large birds that were anything but broad breasted, with deep keels that would refuse to go into the modern oven. But the broad breasted turkey weighing up to 25 pounds is so built (being almost as wide as it is deep) that it will go into an average oven.

For the last 20 years the prairie breeding stock has been selected more on feathers than on meat, and now that that day is gone (and good riddance to it) it seems positively foolish to discourage producers from raising these broad breasted fellows that are so economical in production, that are so appealing to the ultimate consumer, and that are far more profitable to the producer, who, after all, is the man who should make the most from the production of turkey meat.

Promoting a small turkey may be the line of least resistance, but there is not going to be much left over cost of poult and cost of feed on the small bird.

A much saner approach to the problem of merchandising these excellent broad breasted turkeys would be to se up an active educational program directed at the housewife, at the restaurant proprietor, as well as at the producer. The turkey industry will never develop to any size in this country if the only time the finished product is bought is at Christmas.

A breeder in Oregon told the writer somewhat over a year ago of a chain of sandwich shops in New York State that had built up their business on chicken sandwiches. Two or three years before the directors of this chain were persuaded by the turkey industry to switch over to a turkey sandwich. They did so after having it proved to them that the larger the bird the greater percentage of meat was there to bone.

Almost instantly their sales fell and continued to fall until they again put chicken sandwich back on the menu. The public had been educated to chicken sandwich and not to turkey sandwich.

But in re-instating the chicken sandwich the shops continued to make sandwiches of turkey meat instead of chicken BECAUSE THEY COULD AFFORD TO PAY SEVERAL CENTS A POUND MORE FOR LARGE TURKEYS… AND MAKE MORE MONEY… than for chicken.

Smoked turkey is one of the most delicious meats ever to be offered to the public, yet how much of it is being prepared that way?

What is needed today is definitely that the produce trade should frown on these beautiful full breasted birds, but that ways and means should be found for increasing consumption of this most economical of all turkey.

The produce trade has not, in the past, shown any disposition to work with the producer expanding markets and it seems unlikely that this group will do so in the immediate future. It looks very much as if the producers, through their own organizations, are the ones to get the job underway, and then seek the co-operation of the packers. Producers should be prepared to spend some of their own money in promoting the sale of their products. If they do this, the way is open to them to really put turkey meat on the table of the people of Canada every month of the year, to their own very real advantage.

Following along from the report of the Produce men’s meeting it was gratifying to read of a conference that was held the following day between the packers and the poultry commissioners and Senior Inspectors of the four western provinces. The same topic was discussed and Landreth reiterated his previous statements about the need for maximum tom weights of 18 pounds and hens 8-14 pounds. This was replied to by G.R. Wilson from Vancouver, who said that he thought that undue concern was being expressed, that the cost of producing these heavy birds was only slightly over that for a bird of a smaller size and that the broad breasted bird is the bird that gives the greatest percentage of meat in relation to carcass weight. He felt that while these birds are heavy they are much more compact and therefore could be more easily used even by the housewife. He concluded by suggesting that by a program of education their use could be extended.

The average turkey that has been marketed at the Coast for the past good many years has been of a poor shape, poorly finished and most unattractive in comparison with the wider breasted bird that has been in vogue in British Columbia since the middle thirties. Now that this excellent type bird is starting to be grown on the prairies every sales outlet should be explored before anything is done to discourage its production. It is the meat bird par excellence, it is the most economical to produce and returns the grower the most money for his investment.