Dinde de Bresse turkey celebrates 40 years of AOC status

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Bresse poultry – chicken, poulard and capon – is the only poultry in the world to have benefited from the recognition of AOC status (appellation d’origine controlée) since 1957. Similarly, Bresse turkey was awarded its own PDO* in 1976. This year, it will once again star as one of the festive season’s favourite dishes.

In France, turkey is enjoyed all year round, but traditionally is particularly popular as a festive Christmas dish. In France, it is usually prepared with chestnut stuffing and green beans, and depending on the region, served with sautéed or dauphine potatoes or even gratin dauphinois. Dinde de Bresse, which is raised outdoors and then carefully fattened up, is in fact very succulent.

AOC dinde de Bresse, tender turkey with a unique taste

There is only one place in the world and one method of breeding where turkey benefit from PDO status, and that’s Bresse in France. The least well-known of the four types of AOC poultry from Bresse (chicken, capon, poulard and turkey) are free to roam in fields located between Mâcon, Chalon-sur-Saône and Bourg-en-Bresse where they are looked after for a period of eight months before gracing French dinner plates. While capon and poulard enjoy an excellent reputation, Bresse turkey « la perle noire de Bresse », or the black pearl of Bresse, as Richard Labalme likes to call it, has the advantage of size.

« It’s a very athletic bird that runs free in the fields for seven months and then kept inside for a month to produce the finest quality meat », explains the president of the Syndicat des producteurs de dinde de Bresse, the local trade body supporting producers of Bresse turkey.

The turkeys are kept indoors in chicken coops and able to eat, drink and sleep to their heart’s content and in so doing fully mature and produce a uniquely flavoured meat. « It is a direct result of this final stage that the turkey acquires its tender, unctuous and flavoursome quality so appreciated by consumers ». This tiny niche provides a livelihood for 21 producers in the Bresse region who every year sell some 20,000 PDO turkeys.  While 40% are sold directly from the farm, Bresse poultry also travel well. Promoted by the greatest French chefs, of which Christophe Blanc is its most ardent supporter, it has also graced Asia’s finest tables. Since 1986, it has been served on flights with Singapore Airlines. It is also highly appreciated in Japan where a number of Tokyo’s 3-star restaurants feature it regularly on the menu. Sales are essentially concentrated in Switzerland and in certain Arab countries, notably Dubai.


Turkey has the starring role at the « Glorieuses de Bresse » contest

Every year, a few days before the Christmas and New Year celebrations, Bresse breeders come head to head in “Les Glorieuses de Bresse”, a traditional « beauty contest » to find the finest Bresse birds according to four main categories of capon, poulard, chicken and turkey. The poultry are plucked and specially prepared for the occasion.

L'Affiche de Glorieuses de Bresse 2016

Les Glorieuses de Bresse 2016, source: CIVB

The contest involves tightly wrapping the bird in a bespoke piece of fine cloth ensuring the meat is slightly compressed in the fat, while enhancing the shape, colour of the skin and preserving the meat. It’s a tradition handed down from generation to generation. In total, four competitions are organised, each one a popular source of entertainment attracting hundreds of spectators. The winning bird is crowned queen of queens !

La dinde française, la dinde de Bresse fête les 40 ans de son AOC
La dinde française, la dinde de Bresse fête les 40 ans de son AOC

Pour plus d’informations sur la volaille de Bresse, consultez le site officiel du Comité Interprofessionnel de la Volaille de Bresse: CIVB