There is technically only one breed of turkey, with several varieties, although many people incorrectly refer to these varieties as breeds.

Turkeys are raised for meat only. There are no varieties of turkeys that have been developed for egg production (as with chickens, ducks and quail). As a result, turkeys do not produce very many eggs. This can be a problem with breeder flocks.

Broad-breasted white is the most common type of turkey raised commercially in the United States. It has a larger breast than the other varieties of turkeys.

The term Heritage turkeys refers to naturally mating turkey breeds indigenous to the Americas. These varieties date back to early Colonial times. They are Beltsville Small White, Bourbon Red, Jersey Buff, Narragansett, Royal Palm, Slate, Standard Bronze and White Holland. Heritage turkeys grow at a much slower rate than Broad-Breasted Whites. The result is a smaller bird but one with a more balanced dark-to-white meat ratio; a more intense, sometimes gamy flavor; and a thicker layer of fat surrounding the breast.


As turkeys get older it is easier to tell the males (toms) from the females (hens).

Tom turkey strutting Strutting tom turkeyTom turkey strutting