Hard to believe. Turkey is a good source of protein, but it also contains saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol. Read our CEO’s blog for an explanation of the ratings.
Of course, many people choose to indulge over the holidays, so here are some tips that can help you pick a healthier, ethically raised turkey. Read on to find the best turkey for you.
Organic primarily refers to the diet the turkey is fed. To receive an organic certification the turkey’s feed has to be 100% organic, which means free from artificial pesticides and fertilizers. The bird must also be free from antibiotics and given access to the outdoors.
The USDA defines a “natural turkey” as one that contains no artificial ingredients such as added flavors or colors, and that it is only minimally processed.
However, this leaves out a lot. A turkey labeled “natural” can be fed grains grown with pesticides and raised on a farm that uses pesticides on their fields.
According to the USDA, “free range” means simply that the turkey “has been allowed access to the outside.” This can mean that they are raised primarily in cages or houses, but that there is a door to the outside. “Free-range” turkeys may never really see the range.
This is an unregulated term, but it is used when a turkey is raised in a pasture and really is able to move around freely. Even pasture-raised turkeys are often raised in brooders until they are about 8 weeks old but then moved outside to graze and forage in a pasture.
Pasture raised is much closer to the idea of freely ranging than “free range.”
To be classified as “hormone free,” a turkey must have been raised without any hormones.
The claim “no hormones added” is actually a bit deceptive and cannot be used on labels unless it is followed by the statement: “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.”
This means that the turkeys have ample space, shelter and gentle handling to limit stress. They must have access to fresh water and a healthy diet of quality feed, without added antibiotics or hormones.
A certified-humane turkey cannot have been raised in cages, crates or tie stalls.
Fresh vs. Frozen Turkey
“Fresh” refers to turkey whose internal temperature has never been below 26°F. “Hard-chilled” means the turkey was kept between 0°F and 26°F. “Frozen” means the turkey was kept at or below 0°F.
The surprising thing about this standard is that it only mentions temperature, not time. Most Thanksgiving turkeys are processed in September and October, but are still labeled “fresh” in November.
Ninety-nine percent of turkeys raised in the U.S. are called Broad Breasted Whites which have been bred to produce both white and brown meat with large breasts.
These industrially-farmed turkeys are unable to reproduce without artificial insemination and are frequently lame because of their heavy breasts.
Many people assume that kosher meat is safer than non-kosher meat, because it is monitored by a rabbi during slaughter and includes a salting process to remove blood.
However, there is no evidence that it is safer. The USDA has conducted an initial study of bacterial contamination in kosher and non-kosher meat. Kosher meat did not display consistently lower bacterial levels.
Heritage breeds have made a comeback in the US, such as the Bourbon Red, Narragansett, Standard Bronze, and White Holland. According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, to be classified as a heritage turkey an animal must reproduce without artificial insemination, be able to survive outdoors with a long lifespan, and have a slow growth rate. Heritage turkeys are generally given twice as long to develop as industrially raised turkeys.