Gender controversy at county fair

September 30, 2009 7:06:09 PM PDT
There's a gender controversy at the Fort Bend County Fairgrounds. Some say the grand champion turkey hen isn't really a female. She's actually a tom. All the competitions at this year's Fort Bend County Fair, there's one contest that has ruffled more than a few feathers. It's a controversy that has called into question whether this year's top female turkey was even a female at all.

Agriculture extension agent Dwight Callis said, "It's kind of a subjective call."

We're told three different officials actually looked at the turkey and determined it was a female. But the questions began just hours after the champion hen was crowned. Observers began noticing strange behavior, specifically, that she was acting a lot like a male turkey.

"This bird obviously started to strut a little bit," Callis explained. "I think they noticed that about 36 hours after the show."

That set off the firestorm. More than one person filed a protest accusing the bird of being a sham. The board of directors went into an emergency meeting, but decided the outcome would stay the same.

Callis said, "It's the final decision. That's what we do in the judging field out here, whether we're showing cattle or we're showing sheep or whatever. Whatever that judge selects, that's that final decision."

The problem, officials say, is that the hen was believed to be what's called a bearded hen. Bred for more meat, it typically has larger muscles, which could resemble a male bird. In this case, the board felt the judges made the best decision based on what they saw, believing that no one would intentionally try to make a turkey out of the judges.

We asked, "You don't think the family tried to pull a fast one?"

"Oh, no, definitely not," Callis responded. "Great family. No, no way. No way."

Eyewitness News tried to talk to the family but we were told they had no comment. Officials say the only way to really figure out if this was a male or female would be to butcher the bird. They are working on changing the system for next year to allow both males and females to compete in the same competition.

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