Home-grown turkeys are popular in Wilton

WILTON — Anticipating demand for home-grown fowl to grace Wilton’s Thanksgiving tables, Millstone Farm doubled its turkey flock from 30 last year to 60 this year and sold them all.

The birds are broad-breasted Bronze turkeys, the most popular turkey variety for most of American history, according to the Livestock Conservancy. It’s a large bird. Drew Duckworth of Millstone Farm guessed their birds would average 18 to 22 pounds when they came back from the butcher.

They are so-named because their feathers have a metallic sheen that changes, depending on the light, from copper to bronze to burnished gold.

The breed is the result of cross-breeding between domestic turkeys brought by European colonists and the eastern wild turkeys native to America, from which they got their coloring, the conservancy said. Tamer than wild birds and bigger than the European varieties, they were popular in the 1700s and the name “Bronze” was formalized in the 1830s.

Today’s variety, however, is the result of more crossbreeding that began in the early 1900s. Broader-breasted Bronze turkeys were introduced from England to Canada and then the American Northwest. When crossed with larger, faster-growing birds from the States, the result was today’s Broad Breasted Bronze, according to the conservancy.

Despite continued improvements, by the 1960s this breed fell out of favor with commercial turkey producers, which favored the large, white turkey that filled supermarket freezers and coolers this week. The Bronze continues to be popular among seasonal, small-scale producers.

Among those is Millstone Farm, which also raised a flock of 60 spring turkeys that were processed into drumsticks, wings, and ground turkey, all available for purchase at millstonefarm.org.