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Understanding the Label

When you are selection a turkey the label tells a story: temperature, inspection and grading, classes of turkeys

Understanding the Label

If you must understand the poultry you are buying by reading a label, a catalog description, or an ad on the internet, you may find the terms unusual and counter-intuitive. The following sections will help you understand that information when selecting the turkey.


  • You can tell the temperature at which a bird was held by reading "fresh," "hard chilled", or "frozen" on the label. (What has been labeled "fresh" might better fit your definition of frozen.)

    Fresh: This means the bird was never chilled below 26 degrees F ( - 3.3 degrees celsius).

    Hard Chilled or Refrigerated or Deep Chilled, or Not Previously Frozen: If one of these terms is used it means the temperature of the bird ranged between 0 degrees F to 25 degrees F. ( - 17.8 to - 3.9 degrees celsius).

    Frozen: The turkey has been maintained at or below 0 degrees F. ( - 17.8 degrees celsius).

    About the only way to take home a truly fresh turkey - above 32 degrees F (0 degrees C) - is to buy a freshly slaughtered one from a farm or live bird market.

    Inspection and Grading:

    To help with selecting the turkey, the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA) grants authority to the Federal Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to provide inspection for all poultry products sold in interstate commerce and re-inspects imported products to ensure that they meet U.S. food safety standards.

  • Poultry producers have the option to apply for Federal or State inspection, but products produced under State inspection are limited to intrastate (within the state) commerce.
  • A State's program must enforce requirements "at least equal to" those imposed under the Federal  Poultry Products Inspection Acts.

  • A grade assigned to a turkey has a different meaning than the inspection seal. Different governmental inspection agencies will have jurisdiction depending on where the bird originates, where it is processed and where it will be sold.

  • An inspection seal from the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) is an indication of product safety and wholesomeness so it may be a consideration when selecting the turkey.
  • USDA grade has nothing to do with wholesomeness. Grading is performed to indicate that it is a pretty bird; it is awarded like a beauty contest tiara. You will probably never see Grade B or Grade C birds, but you might buy them as a ground turkey product with no grade indicated. Grade can safely be ignored when selecting the turkey.

  • Classes of Turkey

    Birds are differentiated into classes which mostly indicate age. These are the USDA's classes:

  • Fryer or Roaster: This is an immature bird, less than 4 months old, and generally weighs 4 to 8 pounds.

  • Young: The USDA requires that a turkey labeled "young" be 8 months old or less at the time of slaughter.

  • Yearling: This turkey, under fifteen (15) months old is not quite as tender as a bird labeled "young”.

    Mature or Old: A turkey over fifteen (15) months may be a tough old bird, usually not good for roasting.

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

Select Turkey Based on How It Was Raised and Processed: Free Range, Organic, Enhanced

Select Turkey Based on Types and Breeds

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Copyright © 2009 - 2019 The Perfect Turkey
Copyright © 2009 - 2019 The Perfect Turkey
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