Beltsville Small White


The U.S. Department of Agriculture started in 1934 with the following combination of turkey varieties to produce the Beltsville: Standard Bronze (2 strains); Broad Breasted Bronze (1 strain); Charlevoix (Canadian small-type) Bronze (1 strain); White holland (4 strains); Black (1 strain); Narragansett (1 strain); wild (4 strains); and White Austrian (1 strain) a small-type turkey imported from Scotland specifically for this project. Seven years later the Beltsville White was introduced in 1941 and it was admitted to the APA Standard in 1951. Adults weighed 23 pounds for toms and 13 pounds for hens. They were developed to produce a smaller wide breasted turkey, but the Broad Breasted varieties took that niche when they could be slaughtered at an earlier age. A variety census of breeding hens and toms for the 1952 season in the U.S. listed a total of 588,225 Beltsville Small White turkeys. They were only second to the Broad Breasted Bronze with 2,302,573 birds. No Broad Breasted Whites were listed (even though they were becoming very popular at the time) but they did list 109,862 White Hollands. According to these records, the Beltsville was the most numerous white turkey at the time.

The current Standard of Perfection listing for Beltsville Small White Turkeys calls for the following weights: Old Tom 21#, Young Tom 17#, Old Hen 12#, Young Hen 10# Disqualifications are males over 3 pounds overweight or hens over 2 pounds overweight. There should be no cut for underweight in well-fleshed, mature specimens, since small size is desirable.


Most of the turkeys listed as Beltsville Whites can be traced back to the University of Wisconsin which has White Midgets. There is a flock of Beltsvilles in Canada but it is a closed flock that is being increased and none are said to be available (it is unknown if these turkeys are still in existence. The birds available from hatcheries are not true Beltsvilles, but unfortunately, it is a name commonly used for any smaller white turkey variety. We are fortunate enough to have some of the very few true Beltsvilles, from the Ames Research Station in Ames IA. We received these turkeys from Featerbrained Farm in Gold Hill, Oregon, who in turn received theirs from a lady in California, who got the eggs from Brian Tibbot (a USDA employee), who was able to get eggs from Ames. It was felt that I could do something to increase their numbers and availability, while keeping to the true intended qualities of this variety. I feel very honored and fortunate to be trusted with these birds, and excited to be able to increase their numbers and be able to offer them to others. There are 3 lines of BSW that exist today. Brian Tibbot calls them Ames, Albertsen, and Ontario. He estimates there are only 250 breeding adults.


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