Good Question: Ground Turkey Packaging

updated Jun 4, 2019
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Dear Kitchen,

I noticed that ground turkey is now sold in these bubble-like packages. Is it safe? What is it?


(To All Good Questions)

There is something a bit frightening about these meat packages. We’ve long been tough to avoid canned goods that have bulging sides, but this time it’s intentional.

I emailed your question to Shadybrook Farms, a main seller of ground turkey in the stores here in NYC. Shadybrok is owned by agricultural giant Cargill.

They told me: “The puffy appearance in our tray pack items is due to the fact that we use an innovative way of packaging called MAP (modified atmosphere packaging). MAP uses oxygen and nitrogen to help maintain the freshness of the product.”

When I emailed back with more specific questions, they told me I should Google “MAP”. (Strange way to help a customer, I thought.) When you search on MAP, you get maps. Then, I searched “MAP, packaging” and found there is much information available online.

The Dietary Managers Association says, “MAP packaging allows processors and distributors to provide food that is fresh, convenient, and often less labor-intensive than traditional foods. The leader in the MAP foods category is fresh, ready-to-use vegetables, such as bags of pre-trimmed, pre-washed salad, or packages of washed, sliced mushrooms.” The convenience sounds fine, but the pre-washed salad is a bit scary since the recent E.coli outbreak tied to bagged spinach.

I do not like cooking with this meat. I’ve given it a try and twice and I found the flavor to be too plain. Also, not to be too gross, but there are little flecks in the meat, perhaps it is ground bone. After those experiences, I now buy my ground turkey at the farmer’s market. Thought it is $2 a pound more, the meat comes packaged in plain plastic bag, has true smells-like-Thanksgiving turkey flavor and no flecks.