Canadian Poultry Magazine

Features 100th anniversary Key Developments
Sell Turkeys Like Meat?

December 1946


February 13, 2013
By Clyde Edmonds

Topics

Less than 10 years ago, a friend of mine to whom I proffered a turkey as a token of appreciation for a fine service rendered, exclaimed: “What? A turkey dinner in the month of May? Never heard of such a thing!” To him it was almost sacrilege to think of eating turkey out of season.

It is a far cry from that day when turkeys were the project of the farm wife and were farm dressed and were delivered to receiving stations with bulging crops, with innumerable body pinfeathers, with the legs burned from trying to rub the feathers off. And with various body bruises which resulted from rather crude killing and dressing methods, to the modern dressing plants where the birds are delivered alive and where each bird receives the same treatment, where the heads are neatly wrapped, the shanks and feed are scrubbed clean, and the body is free from skin burns and bruises and pinfeathers, and crops are clean.

In those days we thought a farm flock of 100 or 200 turkeys was mass production. Hen turkeys averaged from 8 to 10 pounds, and a 20-pound tom was almost huge. In 1930 the average live weight of turkeys at marketing time, including both hens and toms, was 13 pounds. And in those days the tom turkeys brought a premium over the hen turkeys.

Also, in those days, more people lived in old-fashioned homes with old-fashioned kitchens equipped with old-fashioned ranges that would accommodate a really family-sized turkey weighing 20 or 25 pounds.

But that was yesterday. Through the years there have been many changes. Cooperatives took the initiative in popularizing the turkey as a year-round food. With modern refrigeration, we were able to spread the supply and make it available through every month of the year. Breeders went to work seriously with a view of developing a turkey that would be stocky and plump like a white-faced steer. The result is the popular broad-breasted turkey.

Putting more meat on the bones added pounds to the weight of the birds, and a 20-pound tom is now considered in the category of a small tom. The average weight grew from 13 pounds, hens and toms included, to approximately 17 pounds. Some tom turkeys weigh upwards of 35 pounds.

In the process of putting on more weight, the differential between toms and hens was removed, and hens gradually took a preferential position, selling at a premium over toms. This was accounted for by the fact that most toms outgrew the average family-sized oven, and the demand was for the smaller bird, even at an increased cost.