Getting Ready for Thanksgiving: Varieties of Turkeys Demystified

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

It’s not just about Butterball anymore. Head to your grocer these days and you have a myriad of choices for turkeys. We’re here to help you navigate your way through it all and find the best turkey you can.

Self-basting turkeys are a new and rather scary development in the already horrifying < a href=””>factory-farm meat world. These birds are injected with a solution that makes them more tender and flavorful. We all know there’s no such thing as a free lunch; these solutions contain high amounts of sodium and many have artificial flavors. They can taste anywhere from buttery to spongy.

Price: ~$1/pound
Producer: Butterball

Kosher turkeys are slaughtered and processed according to rabbinic laws and are brined in a salt solution. Aside from the obviously religious aspect, these birds usually these taste very good without any further preparation.

Price: $2 – $4.50/pound
Producer: Empire Kosher

Free-range turkeys are birds that were allowed to roam outdoors, which some argue has a positive affect on the flavor of the meat, especially if the roaming area was roomy . However, the term “Free-range” does not specify certain conditions, and it also does not indicate that the bird was raised without antibiotics or hormones.

Prices: $1.50 – $4.00/lb.
Producer: Polyface Farms

Organic turkeys eat only organic feed, which by law contains no genetically modified grains, pesticides or herbicides, or animal by-products. They are also free-range, and raised without the use of antibiotics or growth-hormones. Their taste varies, although Eberly’s is said to be one of the best tasting.

Prices: $3.50 – $4.50/pound
Producer: Eberly’s

Natural turkeys are minimally processed and have no artificial ingredients, preservatives, or coloring added.

Price: $1 – $2/pound
Producer: Bell & Evans

Heritage Turkeys are breeds that were originally raised on farms before large commercial meat processing plants began to dominate the turkey industry. In the last several years, Heritage breeds such as Jersey Buff, Bourbon Red, Black Spanish, and Narragansett have made a comeback due to the efforts of small family farms, and the online organizations that sell the birds (Local Harvest and Heritage Foods USA.) The flavor is said to be superior, and the meat is leaner. If your budget allows it, these are the birds to try.

Price: $5 – $9/pound plus shipping
Producers (distributors): Local Harvest (TODAY IS THE LAST DAY TO ORDER!), Heritage Foods USA