The Beltsville Small White Turkey was developed in the early 1930s to fill the demand for smaller, meaty turkey that would fit apartment-sized refrigerators and ovens, and would accommodate smaller families.
The genetic foundation of this species included the White Holland, White Austrian, Narragansett, Bronze, and Wild Turkey.
In 1951, this species was officially recognized by the American Poultry Association.
Beltsvilles had good reproductive qualities, including the ability to mate naturally, and so could be selected, bred, and maintained by small-scale producers. In contrast, Broad Breasted White turkeys generally required artificial insemination for reproduction.
The height of its popularity came in the mid-1950s and, in addition to its use as a purebred, the Beltsville Small White also contributed to the development of other strains of medium and small white turkeys though these populations were never very well defined as breeds.
The Beltsville Small White turkey’s success was short lived and by the 1970’s it was nearly extinct.
Young Beltsville turkey hens weigh 10 pounds and young males weigh 17 pounds. The plumage is white, with the head red to bluish white. The beard is black, the beak is horn colored, and the eyes are dark brown. Shanks and toes are pinkish white.
Today, the Beltsville Small White is quite rare and primarily kept by a few exhibition breeders. Research flocks exist at both the Iowa State University and the University of Guelph, however, public access to these flocks is almost non-existent.
In recent years there has been a revival of interest in this variety. Efforts are underway to locate and conserve any remnant flocks in the United States and Canada.
Breed clubs and associations:
- American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, PO Box 477, Pittsboro, NC 27312, (919) 542-5704, email [email protected], www.albc-usa.org
- American Poultry Association, PO Box 306, Burgettstown, PA15021, email [email protected], www.amerpoultryassn.com
- All American Turkey Growers Association, Danny Williamson, secretary-treasurer, 3441 Mustang, Tampa, KS 67483, (785)-965-2628, email [email protected]
- Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities, Dr. Charles R.H. Everett, secretary, 122 Magnolia Lane, Lugoff, SC 29078, email [email protected]
Species Research by Sibylle Johnson
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