Heritage Turkey Foundation

Important Announcement!

We started a project more than ten years ago, with the objective of saving the traditional breeds of turkeys by returning them to the holiday tables of ordinary American families: Better food at an affordable price.

Production of Heritage Turkeys has been at a plateau since about 2004, due to various startup production problems. Now we can announce that we are producing enough turkeys to meet demand, and "ramp up" availability in the future. Now we just need to help our farmer contacts to sell them.  


We will help to coordinate wholesale sales, with retail groceries or chains, and with our farmer contacts. You can help by finding us interested groceries or communities of customers, such as Slow Food Conviviums, wine clubs, restaurants, and so forth.

We now work with three large producers of real Heritage Turkeys in the US:

To begin a conversation about this, call Roger Mastrude at (831) 477-1501 or write Roger@HeritageTurkeyFoundation.org.

We are a non-profit organization. We don't raise any turkeys ourselves. For information about retail grocery chains already stocking Heritage Turkeys at Thanksgiving, see our web site at www.HeritageTurkeyFoundation.com.

What is a Heritage Turkey?

See our Heritage Turkey poster to the left. Prized for their rich flavor and beautiful plumage, Heritage Turkeys are the ancestors of the common Broad-breasted White industrial breed of turkey that comprises 99.99% of the supermarket turkeys sold today. But the Heritage Breeds still exist and are making a comeback. Most breeds of heritage turkey were developed in the United States and Europe over hundreds of years, and were identified in the American Poultry Association's turkey Standard of Perfection of 1874. These breeds include the Standard Bronze, Bourbon Red, Narragansett, Jersey Buff, Slate, Black Spanish, and White Holland. Later added to the standard were the Royal Palm, White Midget and Beltsville Small White.

Large corporations have dominated turkey production and breeding since the 1960's, choosing the Broad Breasted Whites because of high breast meat production in a short period. But Heritage Breeds have been quietly gaining a renewed market and respect due to their flavor and superior biological diversity.

Raising Heritage Breeds is more costly and time consuming than raising White Breasted Toms. While supermarket turkeys grow to an average of 32 pounds over 18 weeks, Heritage birds take anywhere from 24-30 to reach their market weight. But those who have tasted Heritage Breeds say the cost-and the wait-are well worth it.

The Heritage Turkey Foundation accepts the same definition of heritage turkeys as the the two organizations that inspired our work, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and Slow Food. They are are traditional "standard" breeds of turkeys which have not been "industrialized" for efficient factory production at the expense of flavor and the well-being of the turkeys. These are the  breeds of turkeys recognized by the American Poultry Association in its 1874 Standard of Perfection,

What is the Heritage Turkey Foundation?

The Heritage Turkey Foundation was formed to protect the surviving heritage turkey strains and re-introduce them to the American marketplace. The Foundation is non-profit but does not accept tax-exempt charitable contributions or seek members. We are food activists supporting this exciting project. The Heritage turkey project is a tremendous success in the making.

Small farmers who sell real Heritage Turkeys:

Local Harvest is a green business which allows small and larger farmers to list their products. This is the best way to find a turkey in your area, especially if you would like one raised on a small family farm. Many of these farms raise only a few hundred each year, and many are already sold out for 2013. (You can reach the Local Harvest web site at the live link above, or at http://www.LocalHarvest.org.)

For those looking for a turkey near November 2013, many retailers will have been sold out for a long time. Others will sell out in the first few weeks of November. When you read these words, you shouldn't let any time pass if you want a Heritage turkey, and you may very well not be able to find one for love or money. In the past, producers have had to refuse retail buyers who have offered to send private planes to pick them up.

For further information:

Newspaper & Magazine Articles

The Hunt for a Truly Grand Turkey, One That Nature Built
NY Times, November 21, 2001, by Marian Burros, 2072 words

This is the best article overall. It talks in depth about heritage turkeys, what they taste like, and so forth.

Plan Ahead to Assure Your Heritage Next Year
NY Times, November 21, 2001,  by Marian Burros, 572 words

This article is dated but has good preparation and tasting notes.

Bringing Flavor to the Bird (Until It Brings Its Own)
NY Times, November 21, 2001, By Denise Landis, 884 words

Recipe notes

Cruising on the Ark of Taste
Mother Jones, May/June 2003; Michael Pollan

"By pursuing the politics of pleasure, the Slow Food movement hopes to save rare species and delectables and give the considered life a second chance." A good article with information about our heritage turkey activities.

Store-bought birds? Thanks, but ...
Seattle Times, Nation & World: Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Good Seattle Times article on humane production of turkeys for food.

Heritage turkey breeds may be making a comeback
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Lifestyle: Thursday, November 21, 2002

Excellent, comprehensive article on all aspects of the heritage turkey revival. Has tasting information and recipes.

A Turkey Like None You've Ever Tasted
Los Angeles Times, Food Section: Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Good information.

Heritage turkeys bring that old taste home

USA Today, November 6, 2003


A visit to Frank Reese's farm in Lindsborg Kansas.

Set That Apricot Free
New York Times, Op-Ed, Saturday, April 24, 2004

Why we need to seek out heritage items, even when they aren't grown locally.

These Birds are Real Turkeys
Conscious Choice, November, 2002

Good, comprehensive, discussion of heritage turkeys.

About a Turkey
New York Times, Op-Ed, November 24, 2003

Good overview piece.

Slow Turkey Celebration a Taste of Traditional Turkey Varieties cooked in Un-Traditional ways
Slow Food Los Angeles, Web Site, October, 2003

Excellent, humorous recipe.

Heritage Turkey Graphics resources

These materials are designed to help in selling real heritage turkeys. Heritage turkey producers, Slow Food groups, newspapers and other publications all welcome to use them for this purpose. Click on the words "Heritage Turkey Graphics resources" above, to see them.

Background Documents


In 2004 the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy has prepared an excellent list of resources for prospective heritage turkey farmers and those who would like to buy from them. Click on the word "Sources" above, to see it. This includes known heritage turkey hatcheries.

Heritage Turkey Foundation
Roger Mastrude, President
Telephone (831) 477-1501,
300 Plum Street #97,
Capitola, CA 95010.