Dr. Jacquie Jacob Ph.D., University of Kentucky
Most American consumers prefer the breast, or white meat, of a turkey. Generations of genetic selection have resulted in the development of broad-breasted turkey varieties with rapid growth and high feed efficiency. Many of the alternative production systems have continued to use this commercial-type turkey because of their high performance and high breast yield.
As with meat-type chickens, commercial turkey producers typically use more than one feed during the growing period—up to at least eight different feeds. Producers also typically feed males and females separately because of the faster growth rate of males. While several diets are used in commercial turkey meat production, it is possible to raise a flock of turkeys on a single diet—but there will be a reduction in feed efficiency.
Nutrient requirements of commercial broad-breasted white turkeys
|Diet 1||Diet 2||Diet 3||Diet 4||Diet 5||Diet 6||Diet 7||Diet 8|
|Crude protein, %||26-28||24-26||23-25||20-22||18-20||16-18||15-17||14-16|
|Methionine + cystine, %||1.18||1.07||0.99||0.90||0.82||0.76||0.75||0.70|
|Available phosphorus, %||0.76||0.69||0.62||0.57||0.50||0.51||0.46||0.41|
|Linoleic acid, %||1.25||1.20||1.10||1.00||1.00||0.90||0.90||0.90|
Source: Aviagen Turkeys, 2010
Over the past few decades, other turkey varieties have been kept primarily for exhibition purposes. Recently there has been an increased interest in the production of heritage turkeys. Most of today's commercial turkeys are the result of artificial insemination because individual turkeys are too big to efficiently breed naturally. To be considered a heritage turkey variety, natural mating must be possible. The turkeys must also have a long and productive outdoor lifespan and a slow growth rate.
Although research to determine the nutritional requirements of heritage turkeys is lacking, producers with The Livestock Conservancy (formerly the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy) have published guidelines for feeding heritage turkeys under range conditions (The Livestock Conservancy, 2007). However, the diet examples they provide cannot be used in organic turkey production because they include levels of synthetic amino acids, both methionine and lysine. The use of synthetic amino acids is severely restricted in organic poultry diets. The ALBC diet recommendations include two starter, two grower, two finisher, and a couple of breeder diets.
Guidelines for feeding heritage turkeys under range conditions
||Starter II||Grower I||Grower II||Finisher I||Finisher II|
|Metabolizable energy, Kcal/lb.||1281||1297||1380||1419||1452||1527|
|Methionine + Cysteine, %||1.07||1.00||0.92||0.81||0.75||0.53|
|Available phosphorus, %||0.80||0.75||0.65||0.59||0.54||0.42|
Source: The Livestock Conservancy, 2007
Note about methionine: The National Organic Program rules (United States Department of Agriculture [USDA], 2000) initially stated that synthetic methionine was a prohibited material for animal diets. An exemption was given to allow the industry to find alternatives. As research continued in this area, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) later recommended that, until October 1, 2012, the use of synthetic methionine be restricted—originally to 4 pounds per ton for laying hens, 5 pounds per ton for broiler chickens, and 6 pounds per ton for turkeys and all other poultry. After October 1, 2012, the allowed levels were decreased to 2 pounds per ton for laying and broiler chickens, and 3 pounds per ton for turkeys and all other poultry. For additional information, see the eOrganic article Synthetic Methionine and Organic Poultry Diets
§ 205.603 Synthetic substances allowed for use in organic livestock production.
In accordance with restrictions specified in this section the following synthetic substances may be used in organic livestock production:
(d) As feed additives.
(1) DL-Methionine, DL-Methionine-hydroxy analog, and DL-Methionine-hydroxy analog calcium (CAS #'s 59-51-8, 583-91-5, 4857-44-7, and 922-50-9)—for use only in organic poultry production at the following maximum levels of synthetic methionine per ton of feed: Laying and broiler chickens—2 pounds; turkeys and all other poultry—3 pounds.
This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.