10 Different Turkey Breeds Explained

Different turkey breeds
Photo by kissu

Turkeys are large birds that belong to the genus Meleagris. They are considered common and native to North America.

They are different turkey breeds, and each comes with its unique attributes. These birds are called “turkeys” in the English language because turkeys and their close relatives, guinea fowl, were initially brought into Europe by Turkish merchants.

Like most birds, turkeys also come in varieties. Some are bigger, more colorful, and temperamental than others.

Some breeds of turkey are more heavily bred on a commercial scale than others. The male turkey is usually bigger and much more colorful than the female turkey.

The young male turkey is called jake, and the matured male is called a tom. The young female turkey, on the other hand, is called jenny, and the matured female hen. Stay with me as we examine the different turkey breeds.

Different Types of Turkey Breeds

1. Beltsville Small White

Among the different turkey breeds, this is one turkey that tells us a lot from its name alone. Physically, this breed of turkey is small and has a complete white plumage. What’s more? The origin is in the name too.

As the name suggests, the Beltsville Small White turkey was made in Beltsville, Maryland, from a breeding program that lasted from 1934-1941 by the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC).

The program aimed to create a turkey that would meet consumers’ demand for a smaller turkey bird. With the use of Bronze, Narragansett, White Austrian, White Holland, and Wild turkey, the Beltsville Small White turkey was created.

This turkey breed is similar in size to the Midget Whites, but Beltsville Small White turkeys have wider breasts than the Midget Whites.

The turkeys weigh 10-17lbs on average. Nevertheless, their meat is blander in contrast to Midget whites.
Compared to other breeds of turkey, these breeds are considered friendly.

Although they are generally docile, some may be aggressive too. They are productive layers too, which makes them ideal for commercial egg production.

Beltsville Small White can produce around 150- 180 large eggs per year. With their natural mating ability, the mature female breeds are good sitters and hatch eggs well.

2. Royal Palm Turkeys

Ever thought of a turkey kept for aesthetics? Well, you have it here. The Royal Palm turkey is one breed that is primarily kept as an ornamental bird because of its unique appearance.

Just as the name suggests, this variety of turkey has a regal bearing. They are calm and stand out among the crowd because of their beauty and striking appearance.

The Royal Palm has white plumage rimmed with distinctive metallic black. They are smaller than most other varieties of turkey, which is why they are primarily raised for exhibition or beautifying the home and the farm.

An adult Royal Palm male can weigh from 7.25-10 kg, while an average mature female weighs from 4.5-5.5 kg.

Notwithstanding, they are an excellent addition to any farm because the meat makes a nice dressing and tastes great too. More so, they lay eggs and take care of their young ones well.

These turkeys have fierce foraging skills and are kept in some areas as a means of biological insect control.

3. Bourbon Reds Turkey

The Bourbon Red is also one of the different turkey breeds. This breed of turkey was developed from crossing Buff, Standard Bronze, and White Holland turkeys in the late 1800s in Bourbon County, Kentucky. Here, you can see where it got its name.

The turkey looks stunning with a rich dark- red plumage in allusion to its name. The plumage also has traces of black, and the tail is white, giving the turkey a unique look.

This breed is popular because the meat is flavorful, tender, and tastes delicious. Depending on the sex of this breed, it can weigh anywhere from 12 to 23 pounds.

They are also suitable for small flock production because the birds are good sitters and mothers. They can even be kept for egg production purposes.

On average, they can lay 90-120 eggs per year. Sometimes, they can lay up to 160-180 eggs per year.

4. The Blue Slate Turkey Breed

Another different turkey breed to be examined in this article is the Blue Slate Turkey Breed. This breed is also called the lavender turkey.

As the name implies, this turkey has ashy blue plumage in three color phases that can be any shades between white and pure black.

It could be blue with black specks on the feathers, solid black, and solid bluish-grey. The bird is attractive and considered beautiful because of the color gradient of its plumage.

The meat of this turkey is delicious, and the taste is described as flavorful, moist, and firm. Among the different turkey breeds, the Blue Slates makes an excellent option for small farms and backyard breeders because they can reproduce naturally.

Primarily found in colder climates, their meat has less fat compared to the other types of turkey. In terms of temperament, they are not as aggressive or nervous as other types of turkeys, but then their temperament varies, and sometimes they can be challenging to manage.

Adult Blue Slate hen can weigh about 14 pounds, and an adult tom can weigh about 23 pounds.

5. Black Turkey

The Black turkey is also among the different turkey breeds; they are also called Spanish black, American Black, or Norfolk Black.

The black turkey was created in Europe in the 1500s from the first turkeys brought from America by Spanish explorers.

Just as the name suggests, the black turkey has black feathers. It has a beautiful appearance. The plumage has a metallic, glossy sheen to it.

When the sun hits the feathers, they become an iridescent glossy green. The black turkey is famous in the avian meat production industry.

These turkeys have medium to large sizes from 6.5-10.5 kg and are mostly farmed for their meat. It was heavily produced commercially until the early 20th century, when the Broad-Breasted White became popular.

The black turkey’s popularity is reduced because it doesn’t dress out as clean as the Broad-Breasted White due to its dark pin feathers that sometimes leave spots on the skin.

Nevertheless, it is still considered a common turkey, especially in Europe. The meat is considered delicious. Another fact about the black turkey is that it is highly temperamental.

6. Broad Breasted Whites

Broad Breasted White is the most common turkey breed raised and eaten in America. The turkey was developed in the 1960s to meet the rising demand for low-cost turkey with more breast meat than other birds.

It is essentially bred commercially for meat production. The turkey was created by crossing the White Holland and the Broad Breasted Bronze turkey.

It was also intentionally developed with white feathers to avoid discoloration under the skin for a perfect dressing. These turkey varieties grow abnormally fast and are a favorite of commercial farmers because they have high food conversion ratio.

Like the broiler chicken breeds, these turkeys can convert feed to meat in the shortest possible time. The female can weigh up to 20 pounds and the male up to 40 pounds.

Their enormous size and large breast make it nearly impossible for them to reproduce naturally; hence, they are artificially inseminated.

They are also prone to diseases associated with being overweight. Their weight also hinders their movement since they can’t fly or walk well. Regarding taste, their meat doesn’t taste as good as other breeds.

7. Midget White

Dr. J. Robert Smyth developed the Midget White turkey at the University of Massachusetts in the 1960s by crossing Broad Breasted White Turkeys with Royal Palms.

The turkey aimed to offer a smaller version of Broad Breasted turkey to the commercial market. Alas! The bird was too small for commercial farmers and did not gain the popularity the breeders initially hoped for.

Midget white is named for its white plumage and miniature size. Considered small among the different turkey breeds, they weigh barely more than the largest chicken.

They can weigh from 8-23 pounds, depending on sex. Nevertheless, they make a good choice for a backyard poultry farm.

They lay a good number of eggs yearly for a turkey- roughly 60-80 large eggs. The amount of breast meat they produce is good; besides, their meat is acknowledged for its delicious flavor. Unlike most turkeys, they are calm and have a good disposition.

8. Standard Bronze

Standard Bronze turkey is considered significant among the different turkey breeds. They are a popular breed in American history and were developed from a cross between the wild US turkey and those brought by the settlers from Europe.

The outcome of the crossing was an offspring with hybrid vigor. They are larger and more robust than the European turkeys and tamer than wild turkeys.

Their plumage comprises brown with shades of copper and blue-green sheen and a whitish fridge to the tail feathers.

They are commercially raised for their meat, which is considered high quality, and taste great too. An average standard bronze weighs from 16-25 pounds depending on sex.

9. White Holland

This breed of turkey got its name from place and color. It was first bred in Holland, and it has snow-white feathers. It was developed by crossing white European turkeys with native birds in North America.

They are popular in America and are considered the oldest variety of domestic turkeys in America.
Raised for their meat, the White Holland turkeys are a large breed of turkey that can weigh from 20-30 pounds depending on the sex.

They also make perfect dressing since the white feathers reduce the visibility of any pin feathers that may remain after plucking.

Regarding temperament, they are said to be calm. White Holland turkeys are good mothers and take care of their young well. They are good sitters, but the hen’s heavyweight sometimes causes their eggs to break.

10. The Narragansett Turkey

The Narragansett turkey was developed in Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, USA. They are also trendy here. They were created from crossing wild Native Eastern turkeys and domestic turkeys brought to America by the colonists.

Regarding appearance, this breed of turkey has beautiful plumage with impressive coloration. Some people raise them as a hobby because of this.

Notwithstanding, they are primarily raised for meat production. Their meat is laden with flavor. Adult females weigh about 18 pounds, and males weigh about 30 pounds.

Individuals aiming for small flock production can go for this breed because they make an excellent choice because they mature early and are good producers of eggs.

They can take care of their young ones. More so, they are great foragers with peaceful and calm dispositions.


In the same way that we have several chicken breeds and other animal breeds, they are different turkey breeds available in the world.

While some are heavily consumed for their meat and egg production, some are great ornamental pets and are a beautiful sight to behold.

So far in this article, we have successfully examined different turkey breeds. The largest turkey breed in the world, as we have seen so far, is the Broad-breasted white turkey breed, weighing 20-40 pounds.

Their large size makes them an excellent choice for farmers who raise turkey for meat production on a commercial scale.

Raising turkey for just egg production is not a feasible option because they cost more and lay fewer eggs per year.

Notwithstanding, their eggs are great too. Here, Beltsville Small Whites and Bourbon Red turkey breeds lay the most eggs.

Although all turkeys are naturally beautiful, the Royal Palm and Blue Slate turkey is considered quite stunning and does great as an ornamental pet.

Besides, they lay great eggs too. There, you know the different breeds of turkey. The choice of species to raise or consume is entirely up to you.

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