An abundance of turkeys can be found on our shelves this November, and with those turkeys come labels with words describing the quality of the bird and how it was raised. We know how conscientious our members, shoppers, and employees are about what they choose to buy, so we’ve put together a reference guide for some words you may see on your turkey labels this season.
Air-chilled poultry is cooled by passing birds through several chambers where cold, purified air is used to cool the meat, resulting in no added moisture, stronger flavor and less chance for contamination. It contrasts with water-chilled poultry, which is immersed in ice cold, chlorinated water after slaughter. Water is absorbed into the bird, accounting for 2-12% of the total weight of the bird.
Cage-free turkeys are raised indoors without cages, with a minimum 1.5 square feet/per bird, and other requirements for air cleanliness, feeder space, and drink space.
Turkeys are raised outdoors, weather permitting (in some areas of the country, seasonal) for a minimum of six hours per outdoors day, with a minimum of 2 square feet/per bird, plus have met all cage-free standards.
Turkeys may be labeled as fresh if they have never been chilled below 26°F.
Turkeys chilled below 0°F must be labeled frozen.
A minimally processed product containing no added or artificial ingredients.
The turkey wasn’t given any antibiotics, unless they were sick.
The USDA prohibits the use of hormones in poultry, certified organic or not.
The feed that is consumed by the turkey is non-GMO. If a turkey is certified organic, it cannot be fed a diet with any GMOs in it.
The USDA’s National Organic Program requires that turkeys labeled as “organic” be certified by a USDA-accredited certifying agency. A certified organic turkey will have been raised on 100% organic feed, given access to the outdoors, and will never have received antibiotics.
Turkeys are raised outdoors year-round, with mobile or fixed housing for refuge from weather and predators, in rotated fields, with a minimum of 108 square feet/per bird, plus have met all free-range standards.
Turkeys that are less than eight months old at time of harvest can be labeled as ‘Young Turkeys.’ Most turkeys reach market size at five months.