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The Beltsville Small White

     The Beltsville came into use in the 1940s and was recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1951. Their popularity peaked in the mid-1950s and, in addition to its use as a purebred, the Beltsville Small White contributed to the development of other strains of medium and small white turkeys. Though, these populations were never very well defined as breeds.

     The Beltsville Small White turkey’s success was short-lived and went nearly extinct by the 1970s. While considered a good bird for families, it was less embraced by the hotel and restaurant industry. Processors also preferred larger birds to obtain more “slices.” The Broad Breasted White (or Large White) turkey came to overshadow the Beltsville because, when slaughtered at a young age, the Broad Breasted White fit the processor’s niche for a smaller turkey but had the ability to grow substantially heavier weights for the commercial food trade. By 1965, the new Broad Breasted White had nearly taken over the turkey market. Despite this, the Beltsville Small White still had advantages. Beltsvilles had good reproductive qualities, including the ability to mate naturally, and could be selected, bred, and maintained by small-scale producers. In contrast, Broad Breasted White turkeys generally required artificial insemination for reproduction.

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