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|Subject||Domesticated Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) - Wiki|
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Domesticated Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) - Wiki
The domesticated turkey is a large poultry bird raised for food. The modern domesticated turkey descends from the wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), one of the two species of turkey (genus Meleagris); however, in the past the ocellated turkey (Meleagris ocellata) was also domesticated. Despite the name, turkeys have no relation to the country of Turkey and are instead native to North America.
The turkey is reared throughout temperate parts of the world, and is a popular form of poultry, partially because industrialized farming has made it very cheap for the amount of meat it produces. The female domesticated turkey is referred to as a hen and the chick as a poult. In the United States, the male is referred to as a tom, whilst in Europe, the male is a stag.
The great majority of domesticated turkeys have white feathers, although brown or bronze-feathered varieties are also raised. The fleshy protuberance attached to the underside of the beak is known as a "wattle".
Turkeys were taken to Europe by the Spanish who had found them as a favorite domesticated animal among the Aztecs. Since the modern domesticated turkey is a descendant of the Wild Turkey, it is surmised that the Aztecs had chosen to domesticate this species rather than the Ocellated Turkey which is found in far southern Mexico. The Aztecs relied on the turkey (Mexican Spanish guajolote, from Nahuatl huexolotl) as a major source of protein (meat and eggs), and also utilized its feathers extensively for decorative purposes. The turkey was associated with their trickster god Tezcatlipoca, perhaps because of its humorous behavior, an aspect which it has retained up to the present. In Mexico today, turkey meat with mole sauce (mole de guajolote) is widely regarded as the unofficial national dish.
After being introduced to Europe by the Spanish, many distinct turkey breeds were developed in Europe due to cross breeding. (e.g. Spanish Black, Royal Palm). Turkey was one of the many game species hunted by early American colonists and is thought to have been served at the first Thanksgiving, although there is no evidence to support this claim. Most likely, venison and/or duck was served at the first thanksgiving. Turkeys have been a staple on farms since their discovery in colonial times. In the midwestern United States in the mid to late 1800s, domestic turkeys were actually herded across the range in a manner similar to herding cattle. In the early 20th century, many advances were made in the breeding of turkeys resulting in varieties such as the Beltsville Small White.
Suggestions have been made that the Mexican Ocellated Turkey (Meleagris ocellata) might also be involved, but the plumage as well as DNA analysis of domestic turkeys does not support this theory; in particular, the chest tuft of domestic turkeys is a clear indicator of descent from the Wild Turkey (the Ocellated Turkey does not have this tuft).
Availability and commercial production
Prior to World War II, turkey was something of a luxury in Britain, with goose or beef a more common Christmas dinner (In Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Bob Cratchit had a goose before Scrooge bought him a turkey).
Turkey production in Britain was centred on East Anglia with two breeds, the Norfolk Black and the Norfolk Bronze (also known as Cambridge Bronze). These would be driven as flocks, after shoeing, down to markets in London from the 17th century onwards - the breeds arriving in the early 16th century via Spain (1500).
Intensive farming of turkeys from the late 1940s, however, dramatically cut the price and it became far and away the most common Christmas dinner meat. With the availability of refrigeration, whole turkeys could be shipped frozen to distant markets. Later advances in control of disease increased production even more. Advances in shipping, changing consumer preferences and the proliferation of commercial poultry plants for butchering animals has made fresh turkey available to the consumer.
In the UK Bernard Matthews is a name synonymous with turkey production and the largest single producer in the world. The dominant commercial breed is the White (also known as "White Holland") which are large birds with lots of meat but too large to achieve natural fertilization.
Approximately two to four billion pounds of poultry feathers are produced every year by the poultry producing industry. Most of the feathers are usually ground up and used as filler for animal feed. Researchers at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have patented a method of removing the stiff quill from the fibers which make up the feather. As this a potential untapped supply of natural fibers, research has been conducted at Philadelphia University to determine textile applications for feather fibers. To date, turkey feather fibers have been blended with nylon and spun into yarn which was then used for knitting. The yarns were tested for strength while the fabrics were evaluated as potential insulation materials. In the case of the yarns, as the percentage of turkey feather fibers increased the strength decreased. In fabric form, as the percentage of turkey feather fibers increased the heat retention capability of the fabric increased.
Modern animal husbandry has resulted in significant differences between wild turkeys and commercial farm animals. Broad-breasted varieties are prized for their white meat, fast growth, and excellent feed-conversion ratios. Broad-breasted varieties are typically produced by artificial insemination to avoid injury of the hens by the much larger toms and because the physical changes resulting in broad (double) breasts have also rendered most males incapable of natural mating. Modern commercial varieties have also lost much of their natural ability to forage for food, fly, walk normally, and to escape predators. For this reason, many non-commercial hobbyists as well as organic farmers grow "heritage" breeds such as the Royal Palm or Narragansett -- varieties traditionally grown on farms prior to the advent of large-scale agriculture. Heritage breeds do not grow as quickly as commercial breeds and are single-breasted and thus have less white meat. Their meat has a much stronger turkey taste and does not require flavor additives or brining. Heritage turkeys are disease resistant, strong flyers and foragers, and can mate naturally and raise their young successfully.
Male turkeys strut and demonstrate, usually in groups, to attract hens. They fan out their tail, puff up the feathers on their backs, and drag their primary flight feathers on the ground to produce a "scraping" sound. Part of the demonstration includes gobbling and producing a "puff" sound followed by a very low resonating "boing" that sounds like a rubber band in an echo chamber. The low resonating sound is low enough that it cannot be captured with traditional audio equipment. The hen in turn makes a "yelp" or call that attracts the males. Hens select their mate and crouch on the ground with neck extended to signal their willingness to mate. Hens continue to lay fertile eggs for three to four weeks from just one mating. However, when given the opportunity hens will mate every day.
Some commercial turkey hens occasionally produce young from unfertilized eggs in a process called parthenogenesis.
Most domesticated turkeys are grain-fed.
The average lifespan for a turkey is 10 years.
The Broad-breasted White is the commercial turkey of choice for large scale industrial turkey farms, and consequently is the most consumed variety of the bird. Usually the turkey to receive a presidential pardon, a US custom, is a Broad breasted White.
The Broad-breasted Bronze is another commercially developed strain of table bird.
The Standard Bronze looks much like the broad-breasted, except that it is single breasted, and can naturally breed.
The Bourbon Red turkey is a smaller non-commercial breed with dark reddish feathers with white markings.
Blue slate turkeys are a very rare breed with beautiful gray-blue feathers.
The Black turkey ("Spanish Black", "Norfolk Black") has very dark plumage with a green sheen.
The Narraganset is a popular heritage breed named after Narraganset Bay in New England.
The Chocolate Turkey is a rarer heritage breed with markings similar to a Black Spanish, but light brown instead of black in color. Common in the Southern U.S. and France before the Civil War.
The Beltsville Small White is a small heritage breed, which development started in 1934. She was introduced in 1941 and was admitted to the APA Standard in 1951. She is slightly bigger and broader than the Midget White but both are often mislabel.
The Midget White Turkey is a smaller heritage breed, developed in Massachusetts in the 1950's, sometimes called Beltsville Whites.
The striking Royal Palm turkey has been developed not as a commercial strain but for more ornamental purposes, though it is also bred by those interested in preserving heritage breeds.
The average lifespan of a breeding tom is 64 weeks. Between the hen and the tom , the tom is the only one that "gobbles".
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