Last Word About Turkey (I Promise)

So, Sarah and I ran over to the local supermarket yesterday afternoon to do some research. Sure enough, many of the descriptive terms on the labels have changed in the 3 years since my last holiday in the trenches. These are some of my favorites.


Really means: injected with a sodium and water solution. Can be up to 3 percent of the weight of the bird. That makes for some expensive salt water! Buy the plain one and brine it.


Can mean anything the manufacturer wants it to, because no standards exist for this claim, so it’s basically meaningless.  It has nothing to do with how it was raised, what it was fed, or what they added to it after processing. Sometimes I think it’s their way of saying,”It ain’t plastic, is it?”

Hormone Free

Growth hormones have been banned in poultry production for decades. This is just window dressing.


Antibiotics are required to be withdrawn for a certain amount of time before a bird is slaughtered. This term does not mean that the animal was never fed them.

Fed a Vegetarian Diet

Well, then you know for sure that bird never went outside in its life. Birds eat (among other things) bugs and small critters. Glad to know they haven’t been deliberately fed bits of other birds in their feed, though.


Contrary to popular belief, this does not mean happy birds in an outdoor pen. It really just means there is a door they can go out of, if they choose. Marketing hype at its best.


The process involves salting, producing a natural brine solution.A very tasty bird, worth paying extra for.

Hotel-Style (on a breast)

A whole breast with the wings still attached.

Heritage Breed

Not a Broad-Breasted White, which is the common domestic turkey. These older breeds, like the Bourbon Red, for example, are not as large but are far superior in flavor. They are also a genetic ‘fail-safe’ in the event of a breed-specific collapse in our prevalent domestic species. Ironically, the only way to make it profitable for farmers to raise them, is to eat them. We did one last year – it was quite a treat!

These are the most popular examples of “label-speak” I could come up with. If you have others, leave them in the comments, and I’ll get back to you on them.

One More Word About Ordering:

Someone I used to work with reminded me of another tale of turkeys past : A woman ordered a 28 pound turkey. We gave her the largest bird we got that year. When she came to pick it up, she pitched a wall-eyed fit because it weighed – get this – 27 3/4 pounds! Remember, folks, these birds are grown, not stamped-out with a pattern. It won’t always be perfect.


4 thoughts on “Last Word About Turkey (I Promise)

  1. know why i don’t like these, mom ? we’re not having turkey 😦
    even a Kosher one for your little Jewish daughter.
    though, for those people who do get to eat turkey these are good types. 🙂

  2. Let’s go over this one more time.
    There are THREE people having Thanksgiving dinner at our house. THREE people + smallest turkey I could buy = more leftovers than I want to think about.
    We are roasting a chicken.

    *And, Honey, not eating pork does not make you Jewish*

  3. Pingback: Talking Turkey, Take Two | My Little Corner of Rhode Island

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