The Benefits of Wild Turkeys: Raising Poultry for Sustenance and Sustainability
Wild turkeys are not something that all of us have encountered, but they are more common in some parts of the country than others. As the name suggests, you may see them wandering around near wooded areas. They often cross over into residential neighborhoods and rural properties that were built in the place they call home. But did you know that you can raise wild turkeys? The benefits of raising wild turkeys will be discussed throughout this article.
It’s a great way to continue your homesteading efforts and even get your kids involved in learning how to raise different animals for use on the farm.
Wild Turkey vs. Processed Poultry
As with all meats, something that you catch and process yourself is going to be much fresher, healthier, and more beneficial than anything you can buy at the store. Even store-bought turkey is preferred by many because it offers a great source of lean protein, but wild turkey takes it to another level entirely.
Wild turkeys are typically smaller in size than processed, commercially-raised poultry sold for consumer consumption. The path to domestication likely occurred through imprinting, but not all turkeys followed suit. Because they are wild and roam-free, they usually have darker meat with leaner muscles, which leads to a richer, more intense flavor.
Wild turkeys have a much lower fat content, as you can see in the numbers. The USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) reports that 100 grams of processed turkey breast contains 29 grams of protein and as much as seven grams of fat. A wild turkey breast of the same size drops to 25 grams of protein, but also to a mere one gram of fat.
The Pros and Cons of Raising Wild Turkeys
Before you get to the eating part, you have to raise the turkeys. Several benefits come from choosing to do this on your homestead. For starters, turkeys are docile, intelligent creatures. They are cleaner than chickens and much less chaotic, in general.
Turkeys only take about 16 to 22 weeks to reach market weight, so babies aren’t readily available throughout the year. If you decide to raise wild turkeys, you’ll have to make sure that you know when and where to source them. That will vary depending on where you live and what time of year it is. These birds are relatively easy to feed, clean up after, and keep, but they’ll need to be kept separately from your chickens to prevent disease sharing.
Turkeys are more sensitive to changes, such as temperature shifts, dampness, and sudden environmental changes. They’re also slower than chickens so they shouldn’t be left in the open if you live in an area with a lot of predators. Turkeys will need a little more room than chickens, but not nearly as much as larger livestock.
Ultimately, as with everything we do in homesteading, it’s about getting a better, more natural product on the table that comes from your own backyard. And until you can master that, we’ve got plenty of farm-to-table meals and events you can attend to inspire your future endeavors!
Let’s talk about the health benefits that come from eating turkey, including wild turkey that you’ve raised yourself.
Health Benefits of Eating Wild Turkey
We mentioned that all turkey comes with certain health benefits. Namely:
- Turkey is a rich source of protein, with a single serving making up as much as 65% of your recommended intake for the day.
- Turkey is low in saturated fat, which makes it a lean source of protein. Saturated fat increases LDL, or bad cholesterol levels, which can cause or complicate heart health issues.
- Turkey helps with thyroid and immune function by providing selenium, which can help counteract or stave off cancer risk.
- Turkey is filled with vitamins and minerals, including B6, riboflavin, and zinc. B6 is important for brain development, immunity, liver health, and metabolism. Riboflavin is critical to red blood cell production, and zinc is a powerful immune booster and antioxidant that helps with endocrine function.
- Turkey contains tryptophan, but that’s not why you get tired. The tryptophan produces serotonin, which can convert into melatonin, which then makes you feel tired. Serotonin is a happy chemical, and melatonin regulates sleep, so more of both will always be good when yours are below average.
The problem comes when you are only buying processed, store-bought turkey that may have lost some of the perks along the way.
The Downfalls of Processed Poultry
Eating processed turkey of any kind, even “freshly” ground, immediately increases your salt intake. That’s because these products use a lot of sodium as a preservative. Most processed meats also include nitrates, which are carcinogens (cancer-causing agents). Turkey skin, specifically, is high in fat, so you should eat it in moderation.
The more processed meats (and other foods) you consume, the more you increase your risk for things like:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Other diseases or conditions
Thus, the solution of raising your own wild turkeys just makes sense. You have more control over the end product and can continue to remove those processed foods little by little to improve your overall health. Plus, you can have a lot of fun with these personality-filled poultry, too!
Let Us Help You Get Started
If you’re ready to get your kids on board with raising wild turkeys, check out our Wild About Turkeys kids’ class, which will teach them everything they need to know. The class will take place on November 12, 2023, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., and the cost is just $25 per child. Parents, grandparents, and other guardians can attend the class free of charge with their child(ren).
And to learn more about the homesteading lifestyle in general, be sure to reserve your spot at our Sustainable Farm Conference. The next one is Saturday, October 7, 2023, starting at 9:00 AM with farm tours, networking opportunities, and more. You can buy your tickets online to ensure you don’t miss out. With our selection of conferences, classes, and online learning content like this blog, we hope to make homesteading as satisfying for everyone as it has become for us!