The turkey on your plate this Christmas may have come from Bangalore or Bhubaneswar, but next year’s could be homegrown and healthier too.
The animal resources development department has decided to set up two turkey-rearing units at its Tollygunge poultry farm to meet the growing demand for the bird’s meat among the health conscious.
The turkey currently available in the market is either sourced from other states or procured from unorganised local farms that don’t have the expertise to rear the bird.
“What we get in the market includes turkeys bred by local farmers who ordinarily sell farm chicken or such meat. They breed turkey for this season. But the local turkey is not comparable to the American variety. These local ones weigh 5-6kg, so there’s not a massive amount of meat and fat. The meat is tougher, too,” chef and t2 columnist Shaun Kenworthy told Metro.
The government plans to invest around Rs 60 lakh in Project Turkey with a target of rearing 500 birds simultaneously, the first such initiative in Bengal.
“We had brought around 200 day-old turkey chicks from Bangalore this year to rear in our Tollygunge farm. Since the demand for turkey meat is much higher than its availability, we have devised a viable model for rearing turkey in Bengal round the year,” said Jayanta Chowdhury, managing director of the West Bengal Livestock Development Corporation Ltd.
During the lean season, the farm will sell day-old chicks to farmers in the districts, where demand for turkey is growing both because of the nutrition it provides and the profitability it offers as a business. “We are confident this will turn out to be an economically viable model,” said Pradip Roy, deputy director of the Tollygunge poultry farm.
If reared properly, a full-grown turkey weighs around 7kg and sells for Rs 250-300 a kilo in the city.
As a Christmas delicacy, turkey meat has grown in popularity in Calcutta with people becoming more open to trying out different kinds of food.“Earlier, I would roast eight or 10 turkeys for Christmas at Taj, this time I roasted 20! And our turkey hampers have been very popular, too. People ask for Butterball turkey, which is more expensive and yields more meat. We use those for the roasts and we use local turkey, of which you can only use the breast meat, for our sandwiches,” said Taj Bengal’s executive chef Sujan Mukherjee.
According to nutritionist and t2 columnist Hena Nafis, turkey is lean meat. “People can have turkey regularly as it is lean and healthy meat. It is low on cholesterol and saturated fat,” she said.
Demand for turkey peaks between November and January, when birds have to be brought from outside the state to meet the demand. “During the peak season, anything between 3,000-3,500 kg of meat is sold,” said Rezaul Kalam of Bengal Turkey Farm.
Indian farms rear three breeds of turkey — broad-breasted white, broad-breasted bronze and Beltsville small white. Farms in Bangalore and Bhubaneswar meet the bulk of the seasonal demand.
Additional reporting by Anindita Mitra and Shweta Keshri