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Why are domesticated turkeys white?

by Robert Blaylock


Do you wonder why you see some domesticated turkeys white and some others brown and you want to know? Just go through this 5mins write up to discover why.

Generally, domesticated turkeys are one of the biggest breeds of birds. Meleagris gallopavo domesticus is one of the two species in the genus Meleagris and the same species as the wild turkey.Why Are Domesticated Turkeys White?

Turkey has gained popularity around the globe as a good body nourishing meat, tell me one person that doesn’t like its meat. The industrialization has made turkey meat more readily available and cheaper. Similarly, rearing it isn’t as cumbersome as some other birds.

Female domestic turkeys are uniquely known as hens while the chicks are called poults. However, the name of their male counterpart may vary based on location; toms in Canada stags in Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Although some turkeys may be brown or bronze- feather, yet, many are bred to have white feathers.


Why are domesticated turkeys white?

They aren’t all white. The colour is dependent upon the breed. We farmers have bred bronze turkeys that are not white, not even a single sign of white on them.

What you may be asking is why commercial breeders prefer the white variety, again, that may not even be a valid question. In that case, the breed is generally chosen for its weight gain and its placidity.

The more heritage breeds tend to be more likely to take flight and therefore require more management than a breed that is too big to get off the ground or is more placid and less likely to take flight.

You have to remember that a commercial breeder who breeds for the resale market, or in other words wholesale, is more interested in a breed that takes less time and less feed to get to a saleable weight, and less interested in heritage genetics, or even flavour. Smaller breeders that breed for a direct-to-customer market are less constrained.

Are white turkeys rare?

For wild turkey;

Yes, extremely rare.

Experts recorded that only 1 in 100,000 are true albino turkeys.

For domestic turkey;

No, most domestic turkeys are bred as white.

Hence, White turkeys aren’t and won’t be rare. This is the most preferred breed for most industrial farmers. And commercial breeders are the major suppliers of poultry products worldwide. Some people might not have seen any other breed aside from white.

However, this doesn’t mean the brown and bronze-feather turkeys are inferior, but commercial rearers prefer them as they mostly produce more meat and would be more likely to appeal to the market and finally give them a better Return On Investment – ROI.

Come to think of it, if you were to rear a turkey for commercial purposes, which breed would you choose?


That’s exactly why the white breed can’t be rare.

What type of turkeys are white?

Holland turkeys are white They are referred to as White Holland Turkey. The name White Holland Turkey explains everything; White comes from their colour while Holland comes from their country of origin – they were bred in Holland.

One thing lead to the other, the turkey breed migrated to the USA alongside the early settlers of the country. White Holland turkeys are calm in nature and good setters and mothers.

In the 1800s, White Holland turkeys were well known as meat. But the hens are so heavy; a mature White Holland hen can weigh up to 20 pounds and a mature tom can weigh up to 30 pounds. Hence, they sometimes break their eggs.

What percentage of turkeys are white?

A higher percentage of domestic turkeys are white. You don’t necessarily need a statistician or mathematician to tell you that.

According to research, there are an averagely of 6.2 million wild turkeys in the world. And around 450.8 million total on average turkey – both domestic and wild.

Assuming brown and bronze-feathered turkeys are negligible, we can say the total number of white turkeys in the world is about 444.6 million. Therefore, the percentage of white turkeys in the world is about 98.6%.

Now, if we are to consider non-white turkeys, and we know that most domesticated turkeys around the world are white, it means we are certain that at least 80 – 90% of the turkeys in the world are white.

Where do white turkeys come from?

The White Holland turkey is a very old variety of domestic turkey which originated from the United States. It is known for its white plumage, and it was the most important white-feathered variety throughout most of American history.

Today it is one of the rarest and most difficult to authenticate varieties despite its illustrious past. During the first half of the 1900s, the White Holland turkey was the only commercial white variety.

The connection of the White Holland turkey to the Netherlands is unsubstantiated, originated from crosses of white European turkeys imported to North America and crossed with the native birds

The variety was first recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1874. And today it is considered a heritage turkey breed.

It was crossed with the Broad Breasted Bronze in the 1950s for creating the Broad Breasted White, which is the most common turkey breed throughout the world today.

The White Holland turkey breed is also the base for creating the rare Beltsville Small White turkey breed.

Do white turkeys lay eggs?

Virtually all birds lay eggs and turkey is not an exception.

So if you are among the people that do ask if white turkeys lay eggs, the simple answer is:


Even though many of them are raised as meat birds, yet, they still lay eggs. Their eggs are just as perishable as that of chicken, though with a stronger shell and larger yolk.

What is the difference between white and brown turkeys?

There is this popular belief about white meat; many people prefer them because they think it is healthier.

White turkeys provide white meat while the other dark meat. Dark meat tends to be richer, more flavorful and moist; white meat is less fatty, blander and drier.

Yet, most people still prefer white because it has less fat and fewer calories than dark. But generally, there aren’t many differences between them. It’s all about slightly varied tastes and textures.

What is the difference between white and black turkeys?

Their mere appearance says it all. They have different colours. Similarly,

Black turkey has a fuller, gamier flavour, a smaller breast than the White varieties and a fine texture.

Are fowl turkeys in any way related to the country Turkey

Many claim there is a relationship between the fowl turkey and the country Turkey. Yet, some others usually misuse the world or misinterpret it. Here is the clarification; The birds got the English-language name “Turkey ” from an early misidentification of the bird with an unrelated species which was imported through the country of Turkey to Europe. There is also a Latin species name gallopāvō which means “chicken peacock”.

Wrapping Up:

The domestic turkey is a big bird, usually reared for meat production. Domestic turkeys can be white or brown, a larger percentage of them are mostly white.

And the fowl lay healthy eggs too. If you would like to read it, you should research more about it.

Robert Blaylock

My name is Robert Blaylock, a Veterinarian doctor who practise here in the US; I and my wife precilia manages this blog