What kind of turkey will you have for Thanksgiving?

Explore the different types of turkey available for purchase.

Although turkey is eaten year round, the peak time for buying and cooking whole turkeys is during November and December. Michigan State University Extension educators explain the characteristics of three types of turkey available for purchase this holiday season.

TheAmerican Farm Bureau Federation says elevated commodity prices have increased the cost of the standard turkey dinner and its holiday trimmings by 13 percent. There will be a difference in the availability of fresh and frozen turkeys. Michigan State University  Extension educators provide the following information about three special labels that consumers might encounter in their search for the turkey that meets their weight and price needs.  

Kosher turkeys are soaked in cold saltwater even before the feathers are plucked to draw out the blood and impurities, as required by Jewish dietary laws. Because they go through both rabbinical and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspections, the birds are very clean. The saltwater soak also makes for a more flavorful bird. Kosher poultry are fed an all-natural diet without hormones or antibiotics. The birds are confined but to larger areas than are provided at conventional poultry farms.

Free-range or free-roaming
These birds have continuous free access to the out-of-doors for more than 51 percent of their lives. During the winter in a northern climate, birds are not free-range if they stay in coops all winter. Producer testimonials that support the use of the claim must state how the birds are raised in a northern climate in winter to conform to the meaning of "free-range".

Before a product can be labeled "organic," an organic certifier must inspect the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. The USDA Final Rule specifically prohibits the use of genetic engineering methods, ionizing radiation and sewage sludge for fertilization. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.

For more information about food preservation, nutrition, safe food preparation and other issues of interest to Michigan families, contact an MSU Extension educator in your area, either by visiting the MSU Extension website or by calling toll-free 888-MSUE-4-MI (888-678-3464).

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