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Like chicken, turkey belongs to the bird (Aves) class of animals, and to the family of birds called Phasianidae. While there are many different breeds of turkeys, most of them belong to the same genus and species of bird, namely Meleagris gallopavo. Turkeys are truly native to North and South America – they were not brought to the “New World” by European settlers but were instead discovered to be already present and intimately involved with Native American cultures. Turkeys are relatively large birds that can reach about 30-35 pounds in weight. They can fly short distances at speeds of about 50-55 miles per hour and run at approximately 20-25 miles per hour.
When provided with natural pasture, turkeys will spend extensive time foraging. They are very diverse in their food selection! Pasture-raised turkey enjoy eating acorns, beechnuts, pine seeds, grasses, grass seeds, sedges, farbs, tubers, bulbs, crabgrass, wild berries, alfalfa, clovers, beetles, grasshoppers, and leafhoppers. This very broad natural diet is one of the reasons that we recommend pasture-raised turkey.
“Poults” is the name often used for young turkeys (and other young fowl). Female turkeys are called hens, and male turkeys are called toms or gobblers. In their first weeks of life, poults are typically kept in a brooder area that is temperature controlled (often 90-100°F) and may have limited pasture depending on the exact circumstances with the flock and habitat safety.
Many different breeds of turkey are pasture-raised for food. These breeds include Broad-breasted Whites, Standard Bronze, White Holland, Bourbon Reds, Narragansetts, and Royal Palm.
Turkey is perhaps best known for its protein richness. Skinned turkey breast provides about 34 grams of protein in a 4-ounce serving. This food ranks as a very good source of protein in our food rating system. All B vitamins are present in turkey meat, including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, folate, biotin, and choline. (However, because the biotin content of turkey meat is sensitive to the turkey’s dietary intake, the amount of this vitamin can vary greatly.) In terms of our rating system, turkey is a very good source of vitamins B3 and B6 as well as a good source of choline, vitamin B1, and vitamin B12. With respect to minerals, turkey is richest in selenium and ranks as a very good source of this mineral as well as of phosphorus. It also ranks as a good source of zinc.
Health Benefits of Eating Turkey
- Benefit #1: Relaxation
Why do you think that so many take a rest after their Turkey Day meal? It’s the amino acid Tryptophan! Tryptophan is a precursor to certain neurotransmitters and can work to produce serotonin as well as melatonin in the body which produces a relaxing effect.Benefit #2: Get 65% of Your Daily Value of Protein in One Serving
Turkey packs quite the punch of protein, offering a whopping 32g of protein per 4oz. serving! Children who have behavioral disorders may lack muscle tone, it is particularly important to ensure children with developmental issues have adequate amounts of protein in their diet. Lack of protein can cause poor pallor, lack of energy, feelings of weakness, jitteriness, or spaciness. If you are experiencing this, you can calculate your daily protein needs by taking your weight and dividing it by 2.2. This will give you your weight in kilos. Take your weight in kilos and multiply by .8 and you will have your daily protein requirement in grams.Benefit #3: Lower Your Cholesterol and Maintain Your Brain Power
The wonderful Niacin in turkey may help increase your HDL cholesterol, the good kind, while also helping to reduce your LDL cholesterol, the bad kind. You can’t go wrong with that! Turkey is an excellent source of B12, which helps decrease levels of homocysteine that can contribute to cognitive decline.Benefit #4: Lose Weight and Feel Great
Gotta love B Vitamins, particularly vitamins B3 and B6. A serving of turkey meat has 36% of the daily allowance of B3 and 27 percent of your recommended intake of B6. This does wonders for your metabolism and can prove to be extremely effective for those who are chronically constipated as B vitamins help peristaltic contractions, which pass waste through the intestines.Benefit #5: Cancer Prevention
A little-known health benefit of turkey is that it contains trace minerals thought to aid in cancer prevention. Turkey contains selenium, which is essential for the healthy function of the thyroid and immune system. Selenium also has an essential role to play in your antioxidant defense system, helping to eliminate cancer-friendly free radicals in the body.
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