U.S Department of Agriculture Farmer’s Bulletin No. 1694
Dressing and Packing Turkeys for Market
Issued November 1932
“This bulletin covers practically every phase of the approved methods used in the preparation of turkeys for market. It has been prepared as the result of several years of practical experience in poultry-packing plants and extensive study at terminal markets. By following its suggestions, producers may become as expert in dressing and packing turkeys as is the experienced plant operator.”
So begins this rare 28-page Farmer’s Bulletin from 1932. If you raise turkeys, either for your own use or as a farm enterprise, I’m sure you will find the information in this booklet interesting from a historical perspective.
Beyond the historical aspects of the bulletin, there is the practical information about how to properly kill, bleed and hand-pluck a turkey. The process of killing and bleeding is done with a turkey sticking knife (a specific description of the knife is given), through the mouth, into a large vein in the neck. Then the knife is inserted into the back lobe of the brain (the medulla oblongata). Proper piercing of the brain releases the birds muscles and loosens the feathers. Then the bird is hand-picked, and a precise description of how to properly hand-pick a turkey is provided. This old process of “sticking” a bird is an almost-lost skill.
The technical description of sticking, bleeding, and hand-plucking a turkey is where I think this particular bulletin offers the most practical and useful advice for those today who want to process their own turkeys.
Another very useful thing I learned from this bulletin is the proper way to lift and carry a live turkey. The technique, which I have never seen before, is explained and shown in a photograph.
This 28-page bulletin does not have information about eviscerating the birds, beyond removing the crops. Evidently evisceration was not done on the farm, when the bird was killed and bled, and that is certainly one part of the historical perspective that I found to be of interest. Also, the whole head of the turkey was left on the body and wrapped in brown paper. And certain of the bird's feathers were, as a rule, left in place.
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Some Topics Discussed in this bulletin:
Selecting Turkeys For Market
Care in Handling Live Turkeys
Feeding Before Killing
Equipment For Dressing
How to Bleed and Kill Turkeys
How to Pick Turkeys
How to Clean the carcass
How to Wrap Heads
How to Sew Torn Skin
How to Remove Crops
Saving The Feathers
Hauling To Market
Boxes and Barrels