Turkey stag from Zagorje

Small family farms on the meadows and hills of HrvatskoZagorje (Croatian Highlands) grow, in the traditional way, the only indigenous breed of turkey in Croatia.

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1 000 euros offer for Churchill’s letter about Zagorje turkey

Agricultural Cooperative “Puran zagorskih brega” has announced a reward for the letter of Sir Winston Churchill to Schiketanz brothers, dated from 1946, which presents a historical testimony of excellence and specificity of Zagorje turkey.

Our Agricultural Cooperative “Puran zagorskih brega” works intensively to promote the brand of “Zagorje Turkeys”, which are grown on the meadows and hills of the farms in Hrvatsko Zagorje region in the traditional way as the only indigenous breed of turkeys in Croatia. A legend based on historical records of Municipality Gazette of Zlatar Bistrica brings us the 70 years old story as a testimony of authenticity of this Croatian delicacy.

The story is revealed by Zvonko Hitrec, retiree from Lovrečan, nicknamed Brzi ("Quicky"), who is a living encyclopedia of the history of this region, a man with a rich life experience, and for decades engaged in collecting old documents, photos and information about people significant to the development of our town and region.

The story is related to the Zagorje turkey, specifically its export to England. Zagorje turkey once was the notion of the quality turkey meat, and it is mostly unknown to the new generations that the center of the purchase and distribution of Zagorje turkey was in Zlatar Bistrica. Therefore the turkey is the main feature of this municipality’s coat of arms. According to Mr. Hitrec, everything has started back in 1918, after the end of World War I, when when brothers Bernard and Karl Schiketanz, demobilized colonels of the Austro-Hungarian army, has decided to invest their severances into company for trade of agricultural products, namely eggs. Because of favorable traffic position and some already existing commercial tradition in families Jakopec and Merkoci, Zlatar Bistrica was chosen to be the location of headquarters of their company “Jajex”.

The company was engaged in wholesale import and export, purchasing eggs from people and its export. In 1921, brothers Schiketanz, together with partners, Dragutin Coban, Colonel General Staff in peace, and Ferdinand pl . Halle, later Commander of the State Honorable Labour Service, have discovered very interesting possibility of mass export of Zagorje turkeys to England. The business soon became functional and in the period of one month two to four wagons of turkeys were dispatched from the train station of Zlatar Bistrica daily. The business has reached its maximum of ten wagons per day in 1939. Two hundred workers were employed on that job permanently or seasonally.

The turkeys were obtained from all parts of North West Croatia. Mr. Hitrec specialy recalls of Lisak family from the town of Donja Stubica with amount of three thousand turkeys that were walking straighten to Zlatar Bistrica. The price that the company "Jajex " has achieved for turkeys was very high, and the best illustration can be the fact that the one-day wage in the field amounted to approximately 1 kg of turkey meat. Due to lack of today’s refrigeration techniques, the preparation technology was especialy interesting: turkeys weren’t slaughtered, but strangled, intestines were left inside the turkey, and 3 cm of tipical petroleum-blue feathers were left on the back and neck, as a proof that it is real Zagorje turkey.
Such a strictly standardized procedure was initially done by hired women labour force from Hungary, who teached local women during the first six months.
Besides the purchase and processing of turkeys in the meat industry of Zlatar Bistrica significant activities were also goose fattening and, later, chicken fattening.

After World War II, the company "Jajex" has briefly continued with its production, and, as especially interesting thing, Mr. Hitrec emphasizes a letter from 1946, written by Sir Winston Churchill to Schiketanz brothers, in which Churchill thanks them for the opportunity to have genuine Zagorje turkey at his Christmas menu again. That letter once was framed on the wall in the office of the owner of “Jajex” company. But, when the company was once closed, every trace of Churchill’s letter was lost. Therefore we kindly ask everyone who has any information of the letter to let us know, and especially if knowing of the letter or even having it in possesion. In case of finding Sir Winston Churchill’s letter to Schiketanz brothers, our cooperative will reward the finder with the amount of 1 000 euros.

11.9.2014

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