Big difference between domesticated, wild turkeys

Video wild turkey meat vs store bought

Thanksgiving Day will be celebrated throughout America and it’s a holiday where most people gather together for a large meal and to renew family relationships. This year our hearts go out to the thousands of people who lost their homes during the recent wildfires. For many of them, the holiday will be spent in a shelter, and in some cases little more than a tent.

The traditional turkey will be on most of our menus. Experts estimated that 42 million turkeys will be consumed on Thanksgiving Day across the United States. Most of the turkeys on the dinner plate will be of the domestic variety, but a few people will have wild turkey. The pen-raised bird makes up more than 95 percent of turkeys served. They are larger than their wild cousins and a lot more tender. The largest domestic turkey on record weighed an incredible 86 pounds. The average weight for a domestic turkey is about 20 pounds. The domestic turkey of today has white feathers. Originally all the domestic turkeys were of the bronze color, the same as the wild ones, but years ago farmers bred turkeys to be white because when the feathers were plucked from the bird the pin feathers left were white, which made the bird more attractive in the supermarkets.

There are a few people who still prefer to serve the wild bird on Thanksgiving. Of course, these people have to first go hunting and bag the bird. Lake County has a large population of wild turkeys and it is a popular game bird in the county. The turkey that will grace the Thanksgiving Day table for most is vastly different from a wild turkey. Whereas tame turkeys have large and plump breasts, short legs and can barely walk without falling over, the wild turkey has a v-shaped breast and long legs. The wild bird is also much leaner and the legs tougher. Most supermarket turkeys are of the white species called Beltsville Small White. They are bred for tenderness and more 280 million are raised in this country annually. They are ready for the table after only 18 weeks and California is considered one of the leading states in turkey production with more than 16 million turkeys raised in the state annually.

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Most domestic turkeys are slaughtered at about six months of age. Most wild birds taken by hunters are between 1-3 years old. The domestic bird’s meat is much juicier and more tender than the wild bird. The thighs and legs (dark meat) on a domestic turkey are normally juicy, which many people prefer. The legs and thighs on a wild bird are usually so tough that it’s nearly impossible to chew them.

Experts say the original Thanksgiving meal consisted of venison, wild ducks and geese plus vegetables. Wild turkeys were available and it’s more than likely they also were served.

While domesticated turkeys are often considered to be one of the dumbest animals on earth, it’s just the opposite for their wild cousins. They are considered to be one of the wariest birds in the woods. They not only have excellent eyesight, but they can outrun a dog and fly like a pheasant. They also can survive under the worst conditions. In fact, Benjamin Franklin once proposed that the wild turkey be our national bird because of the bird’s superior intelligence and the significance placed on it during the early history of this country. Domestic turkeys are considered so dumb they have been known to jump into water tanks and drown. They have no natural survivor skills and would be easy prey for coyotes, foxes and other predators.

Even though the wild turkey will take second place to the domestic bird this Thanksgiving, it deserves a special place in history. Without this noble animal there would be no holiday birds and the best part is that it is truly an American bird and a fitting tribute to Thanksgiving Day.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>