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NC State Extension

Pastured Turkeys at Peregrine Farm

September 12, 2005

Photos by Debbie Roos, Agricultural Extension Agent.

Pastured Turkeys at Peregrine Farm 
Graham, NC

turkeys gather in front of shelters

turkeys move towards mowed cover crop

Bourbon Red, Broad-breasted Bronze, and Broad-breasted White turkeys

Close-up of Bourbon Reds

Blue Slate turkeys

Bourbon Red turkeys

Alex and Betsy Hitt of Peregrine Farm added pastured turkeys to their vegetable, small fruit, and cut flower mix in 2003. The Hitts rely as little as possible on off-farm inputs and grow most of their nutrients in place through complex cover crop/cash crop rotations. The turkey manure provides valuable supplemental nutrients, and all the labor of spreading it is done by the birds!

The Hitts raise heritage breed turkeys such as Bourbon Red and Blue Slate, plus one modern breed: broad-breasted Bronze. The heritage breeds are valued for their superior foraging ability and adaptability to pasture. Their wonderful – and, many argue, superior – flavor is prized by consumers and chefs. Read more about heritage turkeys…

Approximately 100 turkey poults arrive in May (shipped by U.S. post!) and spend a few weeks in the warm and protected brooder until they are large enough to be put onto pasture. Once on pasture, they are confined with electric poultry fencing and allowed to forage on cover crops, finished cash crops, and all the insects and weeds they can find. They are moved around to different areas of the farm every week.

The photos above show the four-and-a-half month old turkeys foraging in a mowed cover crop of soybean and sorghum-sudangrass. The turkeys absolutely love the soybeans! They are also provided supplemental feed. The turkeys are brought in to the shelters to roost at night so they are not vulnerable to predators such as dogs and coyotes.

The turkeys are processed right before Thanksgiving at a USDA-inspected plant in Chatham County and sold fresh to consumers through the Carrboro Farmers’ Market.

If you are interested in purchasing a holiday turkey, you can contact the Hitts at abhitt@mindspring.com.

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