Beltsville Small White Turkeys

A Beltsville tom
Photo courtesy of Phil Sponenberg of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy

Following text with permission from
"1998 SPPA Turkey Census Report"
by Paula Johnson

The U.S. Department of Agriculture started in 1934 with the following combination of turkey varieties to produce the Beltsville: Standard Bronze (2 strains); Broad Breasted Bronze (1 strain); Charlevoix (Canadian small-type) Bronze (1 strain); White holland (4 strains); Black (1 strain); Narragansett (1 strain); wild (4 strains); and White Austrian (1 strain) a small-type turkey imported from Scotland specifically for this project. Seven years later the Beltsville White was introduced in 1941 and it was admitted to the APA Standard in 1951. Adults weighed 23 pounds for toms and 13 pounds for hens. They were developed to produce a smaller wide breasted turkey, but the Broad Breasted varieties took that niche when they could be slaughtered at an earlier age. A variety census of breeding hens and toms for the 1952 season in the U.S. listed a total of 588,225 Beltsville Small White turkeys. They were only second to the Broad Breasted Bronze with 2,302,573 birds. No Broad Breasted Whites were listed (even though they were becoming very popular at the time) but they did list 109,862 White Hollands. According to these records, the Beltsville was the most numerous white turkey at the time. Today, no true Beltsville Small White turkeys have been located. All of the turkeys listed as Beltsville Whites can be traced back to the University of Wisconsin, which has White Midgets. There is a flock of Beltsvilles in Canada, but it is a closed flock that is being increased and none are said to be available.

[Ed. note: I understand that there are still several flocks of these turkeys around, but you really have to be dedicated to search out the breeders -- they want to be sure that those who get the birds really work to maintain the breed's characteristics as an excellent small meat bird.]

Beltsville links:

A page on Beltsville history from the STPA Gobbler

Cirrus Hill Farm

A small flock of Beltsvilles
Photo courtesy of Phil Sponenberg of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy

Another shot of the Beltsville flock
Photo courtesy of Phil Sponenberg of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy

Jerry Pool's Beltsville flock
Photo courtesy of Claudia Hofmann Morales

A young Beltsville White
Photo courtesy of Gary Whiting

Mom and kids
Photo courtesy of Gillian Jenkinson

Beltsville poults
Photos courtesy of Claudia Hofmann Morales

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