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The Bronze Turkey of 1943

The Cover of Turkey World October 1943

Turkey World 1943The Bronze Turkey that is featured on the cover of the 1943 Turkey World magazine is very much like the turkey raised by Frank Reese Jr. today. In the 1940’s the turkey industry was just beginning to find its place, they were starting to discuss the best varieties and their use, and the best methods for selecting breeders for next year’s production. Good Shepherd Turkey Ranch uses these articles to choose the best methods for our operation. After all, we at Good Shepherd Turkey Ranch are not inventing heritage practices, we are rediscovering them. The turkey industry in 1943 was trying to find the best management practices to insure the best quality and Breeder Companies (family names) were advertising their genetics as the best. Showing a turkey was not just for a ribbon, it meant that you could get a better market share for your poults. Turkey World was a magazine dedicated to gathering information for the producers and even in the 1980's Frank Proposing a Standard would read through it to find out the latest in industry standards. This October 1943 Turkey World features a discussion of proposing a standard for the Broad Breasted Bronze. The 1943 Broad Breasted Bronze was a naturally mating bird unlike the Broad Breasted White turkeys commercially grown today. Arthur O. Shilling, internationally famous poultry artist, was employed to paint a portrait of the ideal bird of this breed. The job assigned to Artist Shilling was one of the most difficult any painter ever attempted. He was faced by the problem—“What are the characteristics of the ideal Broad Breasted Bronze?” A number of photographs were submitted to add to schilling’s extensive knowledge of this turkey. Sketches were drawn and submitted to leading breeders and after many changes a sketch was approved. The final painting has drawn favorable comments from all who have inspected it. Breeders especially were pleased that the artist caught the typical Broad Breast shape and at the same Breeding Methodstime was able to portray that all important characteristic—good balance of body parts. At great cost, Turkey World reproduced this painting on the cover of its October 1943 issue. The producers of turkeys in 1943 were in a period of great stress, when many problems seemed insurmountable. They were proud of their industry and they challenged themselves to have a place at our dinner table. A question in the minds of breeders at the time was, are these different breeds of turkeys or different varieties? The American Poultry Association has concluded that there is one breed of turkey. Some feel that the BBW commercially grown today is a separate breed from the A.P.A standard bred birds of 1943 these turkeys may be referred to as “unimproved”.

History of the “Improved” Broad Breasted Bronze

The Place for Every Turkeycolonists came to America and bred the stock they brought from Europe to the Eastern Wild Turkey. The oldest American turkey variety resulting from this was the Narragansett. It and six others are now included as Standard varieties. Standard means that the birds are listed as varieties in the “American Standard of Perfection” as cataloged by the American Poultry Association (APA). These “Standards” are often referred to as “breeds” and many have been listed since the end of the nineteenth century. At the turn of the twentieth century, birds were bred for size, for show, and for specific feather color.  Turkey history changed when an English turkey breeder, Jesse Throssel, moved to British Columbia, Canada in 1926. In 1927, he had his breeding stock sent to him from England - just three birds, which he bred for meat. Some of these turkeys put on a great amount of meat on the breast, so much so that they began having difficulty mating naturally. Throssel sold some of his toms from British ColumbiaVictor Ryckebosch to Oregon where they really caught on. These birds were crossed with other high meat producing turkeys and natural mating became even more of a problem. In 1934, the USDA developed a practical method of artificial insemination which allowed turkeys unable to mate naturally to reproduce. The turkey that became known as the Broad Breasted Bronze became the commercial turkey of the day. It grew in popularity through the 1940's and in the 1950s the BBB was “improved” to make its skin a uniform color by breeding it with a White Holland turkey. This produced the Broad Breasted White which, because of its white feathers, had less visible pin feathers. More and more turkeys were bred for maximum size and breast meat yield and to meet consumer demand. One specific turkey breed emerged to meet these criteria, and it is the only commercially important turkey breed today. Since the Broad Breasted White’s introduction it has continued to be bred to put on greater amounts of white meat in a shorter time and at a lower cost. In the US, the strains of the Broad Breasted White are owned by two companies: Nicholas Turkey Breeding Farms of Lewisburg, West Virginia; and Hybrid Turkeys of Ontario, Canada. These Broad Breasted Whites are so economical and popular that other turkeys can no longer be produced in numbers to support their genetics. The Broad Breasted White which cannot fly, cannot mate without intervention and cannot survive without medications has almost replaced the heritage turkeys. Until now that Good Shepherd Turkey Ranch is dedicated to marketing these birds so they can be genetically viable.