Ridley Bronze Turkey

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The Ridley Bronze Turkey is a unique breed of turkey that was developed on the Canadian Prairies by John Richardson of Saltcoats, Saskatchewan in the 1940s. Using bronze turkeys from across Canada and the United States, Richardson developed a unique Canadian strain that was large, hardy, foraged well, reproduced naturally, had a calm and relaxed temperament, a long productive lifespan as a breeder. Over a period of 20 years, this strain was stabilized, and having proved popular in the area, Richardson, along with the Ridley family, established a profitable turkey breeding business.

In the 1970s the University of Saskatchewan acquired a flock of these unique birds and gave this strain the name ‘Ridley Bronze’. The university kept a closed flock from the 1970s onwards, and all other breeding flocks were lost. The entire stock was sold off by 2009, by which time a number of birds had been sold to a few private breeders who are its sole custodians. In 2015, there were only 250 breeding females in the hands of fewer than 30 people.

The Ridley Bronze Turkeys are mostly kept by small homestead farmers that tend to produce food for themselves and a very small group of neighbours and friends. While this practice has saved the breed, it has also hindered its proliferation. The breed is well suited to small-scale commercial farming, and is ideally suited to pastured poultry production. This is valuable to Canadian farmers as many heritage turkeys developed in more southern regions do not thrive in the harsh Prairie climate quite as well as the Ridley.

Because of their slow growth habits and superior foraging abilities, the flavour of the meat is rich, and cannot be compared to bland commercial double-breasted strains of turkey. The texture of the meat is also more firm and when coupled with a good layer of fat, results in a succulent flavoursome meat. The Ridley Bronze Turkey, as with all ‘heritage turkeys’, benefits from being cooked more slowly than modern birds, and excels when moist heat is used.

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Nominated by:Callum McLeod