There is no hard and fast puritanical answer as to which is better when it comes to fresh or frozen turkey. While it is important to consider quality and price, it is just as important to consider the convenience of the person challenged with cooking the turkey. Here are some pointers to help you decide if you should buy a fresh or frozen turkey this Thanksgiving before heading into the turkey season.
Fresh or Frozen Turkey This Thanksgiving?
Quality depends on what you read, what you believe, and who you talk to. There really is no difference in the quality of the meat of frozen or fresh turkeys. According to the National Turkey Federation, the difference between the two is how the turkeys exit the processing plant. The frozen label applies to turkeys that have been flash-frozen at or below zero degrees Fahrenheit, straight after cleaning and packaging. Some turkeys have only been deep chilled, therefore, they have not been colder than 26 degrees Fahrenheit. Grocery stores sell these turkeys as fresh, which is legitimate. As you can see, it depends on what your definition of fresh is. For some people, fresh means off the shelf, not out of the freezer or cooler.
If fresh is your preference, then there is one very important detail to watch out for. You might find thawed turkeys that were once frozen are being sold as fresh. Are you planning on buying a fresh turkey early then freezing it at home? If so, watch out for previously frozen turkeys because they cannot be frozen again.
Talking Turkey Health
The quality of turkey meat probably has more to do with how the turkey was raised, what it was fed, and what’s in the basting. In fact, there are different classifications of turkeys based on these variables. What all these classifications have in common is that the turkeys have not been given hormones, which is illegal. However, some turkey producers raise turkeys on antibiotics. If this gives you a cause to be concerned about, then check the label for “antibiotic-free” or “raised without antibiotics.”
In accordance with USDA regulations, turkeys can be classified as organic when they have been fed pesticide-free feed and are able to go outside in the fresh air. However, there is no specification for how much time the turkeys should spend outdoors.
The free-range label applies to turkeys that have had access to fresh air outdoors. Once again, the USDA does not specify an exact time. In the case of free-range, the USDA does not take feed into account.
The natural classification simply means that the turkey was processed with minimal handling. Natural also means that no artificial ingredients or colorants were added to it. Not to mention, it does not specify what the turkey was fed or if it got to peck around outside.
In order to label a turkey as kosher, a butcher must slaughter and process the turkey under the supervision of a rabbi. The turkey is then pre-brined to reduce the chance of the turkey being dried out.
The idea of basting is to add flavor to the turkey. Therefore, health-conscious cooks might want to know what’s in store-bought basting or in self-basting turkeys. The terms “basted” and “self-basted” mean that the turkeys have been injected with a basting solution. The solution could consist of melted butter, stock, broth, water or spices, or a combination of ingredients. Injecting a baste solution assists with meat moisture, thereby increasing the succulence of the meat. It also helps to darken the meat and to produce crispier skin.
Blessings to You
This is a time for thanksgivings not misgivings, so follow your giblets or gut, and buy what you think is the easiest option for your holiday meal.
Additional Information: Turkey Sector: Background & Statistics
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