Saving Heritage Breeds

Join the Real Food Revival and you can help save heritage breeds and endangered livestock

| February/March 2004

Increasingly, consumers are seeking alternatives to factory farmed products; a growing number of us want more flavor and substance in our food, humane treatment for the livestock and less environmental damage from huge animal confinement operations. Dedicated livestock breeders are rising to meet this challenge, in part by raising historic, heritage breeds. These rare, often endangered, animals were bred for different regional environments and taste preferences over many generations, but in recent years, they have been all but abandoned in favor of the few breeds agribusiness promotes. Historic breeds may not be as "efficient" as their industrial counterparts, but the animals are often healthier and more interesting to keep; their meat, milk or eggs are more flavorful, and their genetic diversity is vital to our food security.

When it comes to rainbows, Frank Reese, Jr. will take a double every time. But his rainbows aren't the kind that arc across the sky after a storm. Instead, they're a particular coppery sheen on the tail feathers of his prized Bronze turkeys, a heritage variety currently making a fourth-quarter comeback from the brink of extinction.

"I hatched 5,000 turkeys to get that color," Reese says, showing off some of his best Bronze toms. "That's why it's so tremendous to finally find a market for them, so we can now raise more." The Reese operation, in Lindsborg, Kansas, is called Good Shepherd Turkey Ranch.

It isn't rainbows that sell the birds, though. It's taste. Recently, Reese sent a 17-pound turkey to a curious New York chef, to introduce yet another person to the taste of heritage birds. "At that size," Reese says, "they're starting to have a breast, and a layer of fat for flavor. That's where the flavor comes from, the fat.

"And that turkey ran free, to forage as well as eat certified organic grain. That makes a difference. Commercial turkeys never experience the out-of-doors. They're de-spurred and debeaked, but because of crowding and other stresses, they still find ways to harm each other. It shows in the quality of their meat."

3/31/2007 3:26:19 PM

great site i am getting chickens again goodd info. here.

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