Having purchased this expensive bird, we noted it had some dark discoloration on parts of its skin. I think it's pigment and harmless, my partner thinks it's bruised and is a tad peeved. Is this normal in heritage birds?
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I found the following information on the NWTF site (http://www.nwtf.org) that I thought might help explain the coloring
Myth #3: Silver-phase turkeys are a result of domestic turkeys joining a flock in the wild.
Fact: Silver-phase turkeys are wild and do not come from domestic turkeys.
Some hunters believe silver-phase turkeys are a result of domestic turkeys mixing with a wild flock, but silver-phase turkeys "are just as wild as their bronze brothers and sisters," said NWTF Mid-Atlantic States Regional Biologist Dowd Bruton. Consider the coloring just a genetic anomaly. "We often hear that they're `white turkeys,' but when you actually get your hands on one you'll see they have a silver and black tint whereas a typical Eastern wild turkey will be bronze and black."
Heritage birds tend to be thinner skinned and the meat not as pure white as the Nicholas and Hybred breeds used by commercial growers. The discolouration and and dark spots is completely normal and should not be a concern. Do note though, that heritage birds cook at a faster rate then the commercial turkeys . . . . more bone, less meat and they have the tendency to easily dry out, so baste early and often. Don't be afraid to add some extra fat (read butter) under the skin to help keep it moist. If the bird was raised as intended, meaning very slowly and much access to the outside, you will be rewarded with a very flavourful meal. Cheers!