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Rare birds flock together at National Poultry Show
Indiana Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Everyone in America is acquainted with the traditional Thanksgiving turkey – or are they? Traditional breeds of turkeys that supplied Thanksgiving feasts prior to 1950 are not available at the local supermarket.

However, a growing interest and appetite for those heirloom birds is being met by an industry that caters to that market.

To meet many of these colorful heritage fowl, one need look no further than the National Poultry Show in Indianapolis, Ind. on the weekend of Nov.17-19. The show is free and open to the public.

The state fairgrounds will host 11,000-12,000 birds, the largest poultry show in America’s history, organizers said. The finest breeders and poultry experts in the country are bringing their birds for judging and exhibition.

In addition, they will lead a guided tour of rare breeds on Friday, Nov. 17, from 1:30-3:30 p.m.

“The general public will find something to enjoy. They will discover animals of unique shapes and colors,” said Don Schrider, communication director of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC).

Small farmers or those with a business interest in poultry also can find valuable information at a conference on bio-security that will take place simultaneously with the show.

On the Thursday before the poultry show, a heritage turkey breeder clinic will be offered to registrants. Registration is required for both the conference and clinic.

Define ‘traditional’
To most families, “traditional” refers to a custom that they’ve repeated for many years.

To poultry experts, “traditional” means those good old days – say, in the early 1800s – when the Java chicken was the roasting bird of choice and poultry were not rushed to market before 18 weeks. “This industry is working to keep part of our heritage alive and to keep breeds from disappearing,” Schrider said.

The supermarket variety of bird is tweaked so that it grows bigger faster, Schrider said. Contemporary chickens are so fat and short-legged that they can no longer breed naturally, he added.

However, chefs are rediscovering the taste of heritage birds, which are usually older and fattier than the common bird at market.

“Age imparts flavor to meat, whether it’s an old bull or old chicken. Sometimes it may be more flavor than you want,” Schrider said. Also, Schrider said more people are discovering farming, heritage style.

“There is an increasing group of people who are middle-aged empty nesters who want to move out of the city and have a slower pace,” he said.

This is a trend that Schrider said is good for America.

“It’s a good thing if we keep any small farms around. It’s positive for American agriculture, our national security, makes us less fuel dependent, and supplies our local economies,” Schrider said.

The National Poultry Show is hosted by the Crossroads of America Poultry Club. The show is a combined event of the American Poultry Assoc. and the American Bantam Assoc.

For more information, check out the website at or call 919-542-5704.

This farm news was published in the Nov. 8, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.