turkey on farm at sunset

Understanding the Label


How the Turkey Was Raised:

The manner in which the turkeys are raised, what they are fed, and medications given may also be described on the label to help with selecting the turkey.

Free Roaming or Free Range: These terms describe how much access to the outdoors a bird might have had. Note the word "access." This doesn't mean they roam around freely. Instead it means, if they want to go out they can, during the limited time a door might be open. This is not an important consideration when selecting the turkey.

Pastured: This is a term used mostly by small farms. These farms raise the birds on the land as opposed to raising them primarily in buildings. The term has no USDA meaning, but it came about to differentiate from the essentially meaningless "free range" designation.
Organic: These birds are “free range,” and they are raised on a diet of organic feed produced without pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Also, they are not given routine (ongoing) antibiotics. But antibiotics can be given to cure a specific infection, if and when it occurs, and the birds can still be called "organic."

No Antibiotics: A label can claim this only if the producer has demonstrated to the U.S. Food Safety Inspection Service that antibiotics were never administered to the turkey.

No Hormones: A label may say this, but since it is against the law to use hormones on poultry this claim is meaningless when selecting the turkey.


How the Turkey Was Processed:

Natural or Minimally Processed or No Additives: This means nothing was added to the turkey during processing – it was not flavored, basted, or injected. Note that "natural" with respect to processing does not have the same meaning as "organic" which reflects how it was raised. This is a very important consideration when selecting the turkey that you wish to brine.

Basted or Self Basting or Enhanced: These birds were injected with a solution to add taste and moisture. Details about how the turkey was "enhanced" (e.g. injected, brined, or marinated) will likely not be described if it is proprietary information (a trade secret) for the particular brand. 

Kosher: The bird was processed according to kosher law. Much of this type of processing is done by hand using salt and water soaking, so the result is similar to a brined turkey.

Retained Water: If you see this on a label it does not mean that the bird was enhanced. Instead, this means that water was absorbed during a cleaning or freezing process.

Treated with Irradiation or Treated by Irradiation:This notification must be on all irradiation-treated poultry along with the international symbol for radiation. Very little poultry has been irradiated, perhaps because symbol and labeling may scare people away from the product.

The following links will help you to further select the best turkey:

Select Turkey by Understanding The Label: temperature, inspection and grading, classes of turkeys

Select Turkey Based on Types and Breeds

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Copyright © 2009 - 2019 The Perfect Turkey
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