Heirloom Turkey Breed Gaining Market Share

Hybrid Turkeys has been creating a stir with its premium breed of birds known as Orlopp Bronze, a hardy breed that can be raised outdoors and has a better feed conversion ratio than most heritage breeds.

“We raise the pure lines and Parent Stock Orlopp Bronze turkeys free of salmonella, in a comfortable barn environment, without the use of antibiotics,” says Trevor Aitchison, the logistics manager at Hybrid Turkeys, located in Ontario, Canada. The commercial Orlopp Bronze turkeys are sold in North America and Europe. The birds are grain-fed and often raised free-range.

Orlopp Bronze have beautiful natural feathering and show outstanding feed conversion to achieve market weight. A 16-week-old hen will weigh about 20 lbs. and a 20-week-old male can weigh up to 40 lbs.
“These hardy birds have great breast meat yield,” Atchison says. “Some customers have reported 4 to 8 percent more breast meat than a conventional white feathered turkey.” Hybrid Turkeys acquired the genetics from the Orlopp family, which has been breeding the Orlopp Bronze turkeys since 1945. Hybrid Turkeys is now working to strengthen the traits of the breed and offer the best premium turkey on the market.

Orlopp Bronze chicks are available from 5 hatcheries in Canada, 5 in the U.S. and from breeders in France and England. Jason Wortzman at Granny’s Poultry in Winnipeg, says one of the main selling points of Orlopp birds is their unique caramel color and fine meat texture.

“Orlopp’s are a heirloom turkey that offer a rich, complex flavor that’s more comparable to a game bird, such as a pheasant.”

Atchison says Orlopp Bronze turkeys are a perfect alternative to more conventional breeds because of their vigor. Pound for pound they are more efficient with feed and grow to a market weight higher than other bronze turkey lines. They’re also very healthy, with many growers claiming a 98 percent or higher chick-to-market success rate.