Stilwell's free range turkeys

Friday, November 18th 2005, 10:37 am
By: News On 6

Life is tough this time of year if you are a turkey. Hundreds of thousands of them will grace holiday tables all over the country. There are some very special turkeys being raised at a hatchery in Adair County.

News on 6 reporter Rick Wells went to Stilwell to learn more about "free range" turkeys.

There are some heirloom turkeys being raised on the Walters Hatchery and Farm in Stilwell, they look like storybook turkeys.

Rick Wells: "Now what kind of turkey is that?" Mike Walters: "This is a Narragansett. There's documentation that Abraham Lincoln eat some of these Narragansett turkeys." The feathers are beautiful.

Walters Hatchery is working now with the moms and dads of next year's Thanksgiving dinner. They are raising turkeys the old fashioned way, like our great grandfathers and their great grandfathers did. Running loose in the pasture, they are free range turkeys. They eat bugs, grass and corn. Because they do, he says they have a better flavor. Better flavor than the commercial variety raised thousands at a time in big buildings.

Over time a lot of the heirloom varieties have been nearly breed out of existence. The Walters family is trying to bring them back and preserving them.

At the farm Friday, were some really dark birds. Mike Walters: "Those are called chocolates." Popular before the Civil War, but they were all but gone. Walters has brought the variety back. They do that by being very selective. Mike Walters: "We raise up several hundred birds and of those we select the very best and the rest are processed for meat." The breeding stock will live to a ripe old age happily producing vintage Thanksgiving dinners for families all over the country.

The Walters Hatchery is the subject of an article in the November issue of "Martha Stewart Living". And there's a website, if you'd like to learn more or perhaps order a turkey for next year.