Turkeys can fly short distances -- typically from ground to perch -- but they are not known for their sustained flying abilities. They rely on their legs to get them around. The active
muscles, such as the legs and thighs, are full of blood vessels.
These blood vessels contain myoglobin (or muscle hemoglobin), which
delivers oxygen to the muscles. The more myoglobin the muscles
contain, the darker the muscle.
Scientists often refer
to these active muscles as slow-twitch fibers. Slow-twitch fibers
are built for endurance, which allows the muscles to work for long
periods of time. Thus the turkey can run around all day without
On the other hand, white meat is the result of well-rested muscles.
The breast muscles, which are used for flying, are hardly used
by turkeys. There is no need to have a rich supply of oxygen delivered
to these muscles. Scientists refer to these types of muscles as
fast-twitch fibers. Fast-twitch fibers are designed for quick
bursts of energy, but they fatigue quickly. In addition, fast twitch muscles are fueled by glycogen (carbohydrate stored in body tissues) giving the muscles that immediate explosion of energy needed to move rapidly.
Karen. More than a meal: the turkey in history, myth,
ritual, and reality. New York, Lantern Books, c2001.
Louis E., Jan L. Corlett, and Cassius T. Lockett. Food
in American history part 2: turkey. Nutrition
today, v. 36, Mar. 2001: 88-96.
Eric. The body electric: measuring your fast-twitch and
slow-twitch fibres. Discover, v. 22, Dec.,
Frederic. Muscle tissue, in Fundamentals of anatomy
and physiology. Upper Saddle River, NJ, Prentice
Hall, c1998. pg 276-313. (Slow and Fast Fibers, p. 302).
Brian. The American turkey. Early American life,
v. 9, 1978: 24-26, 76-77.
Steven. Prime mover: a natural history of muscle. New
York, W.W. Norton & Company, c2001. 370 p.
more print resources...
Search on "cookery
(turkey)," "meat," "muscles," or "turkey"
in the Library of Congress Online
Releasing a translocated Wild Turkey into its new home in Everglades National Park. From the NPS Wild Turkey: Species Profile website.
Two wild turkeys in Texas. From the USGS Wild Turkey Talk website.
The Beltsville Small White turkey was bred to have lots of breast meat. From the USDA
Agricultural Research Service website.
- Whig candidate Winfield Scott & Democrat Franklin Pierce. Prints & Photographs
Division, Library of Congress.