Thanksgiving is around the corner. If you are hosting, this could mean a very stressful time for you, because everything needs to be perfect. Especially that turkey. Some feel it’s the most important part of the meal and when shopping we want to find the best possible bird to help make your dinner a huge success. Buying a turkey can be a hard decision, because most have no idea how to choose the healthiest turkey for Thanksgiving. There are a few things to keep in mind when you start looking, first do you go conventional or the unconventional route? Let’s break it down.
Most turkeys we find at a traditional grocery store are conventional, raised in inhuman conditions. They are confined in very close spaces, fed antibiotics and other forms of growing agents and denied access to fresh air and sunshine.
These turkeys have a very different lifestyle. Unconventional turkeys are generally heritage or heirloom breeds. These breeds tend to be smaller and bred by natural mating and raised mostly outdoors. The best ones are labeled USDA Organic which contains no GMO’s and free of antibiotics and growth hormones.
When purchasing a turkey you need to be careful of ones that are labeled “healthier” but in reality they are almost as bad as traditional conventional turkeys. Don’t get fooled when it says “FREE RANGE” because it really means they are only outdoors for a short amount of time and mostly indoors. If you see the word “NATURAL” this means the turkey cannot be fed antibiotics or injected with artificial ingredients or colors, but other natural flavors could be added.
So now what? How do we go about buying a turkey that was raised ethically in a healthy environment without hunting it ourselves in the wild? Here are some tips to get you started.
How to Choose the healthiest Turkey for Thanksgiving
BUY LOCAL: Head to a local farmer that you can trust and purchase from there. Sometimes you can even pick out your bird first. Not sure where to go, check out Local Harvest which will give you a list of farmers in your area that best fits your needs. Order soon…most farms sell out well before the holiday. If you don’t make it in time for Thanksgiving, there is always Christmas.
WHOLE FOODS MARKET: Most metropolitan areas has a Whole Foods Market nearby, even if you need to drive a distance it might be worth the trek. All their turkeys have minimum lifestyle standards with no crowding or cages, no antibiotics or animal by products in their feed. You can get a bird that meet those standards for about $2.69 a pound or you can get a certified organic bird around $3.99 a pound.
READ LABELS: We went through all the different kinds of turkeys to look out for but what about the other labels. Many turkeys say “Prebasted or “Basted” which means the bird has been injected with liquid that could contain fats, spices and flavor enhancers. Look for the fine print to tell you what percent of the weight of the bird is injected liquid. You want to pay for the bird, not liquid.
WATCH OUT FOR VEGETARIAN FED: Turkeys are not meant to be vegetarians. They need plenty of green pasture and complete protein. When fed a vegetarian diet the turkey is more likely to get sick and need antibiotics. But, it will not be fed feed with animal by products unlike traditional turkeys you would normally find at the grocery store.
KOSHER: There are no set process of how these turkeys are raised unless you see certified USDA Organic on the label but they are usually grain fed with no antibiotics and allowed to roam freely. Kosher turkeys are brined in salt which gives the bird a better taste. So if you brine your own bird yearly stick with a natural bird.
I hope these tips help you find the best possible turkey that will help make your Thanksgiving a huge success. Hosting a big dinner can be very stressful but you can take the stress out of Thanksgiving by starting the process early and make most of your meal ahead of time. Then all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the day with your guests.