With all of the different labels, certifications, and fancy-pants terms out there, it can be difficult to distinguish the difference between a “free-range turkey”, a “natural turkey”, and an “organic turkey” and all those other options out there. What do these terms mean? What’s the difference between them all? Let’s talk shop. Turkey shop.
The USDA defines a natural turkey as one that was fed no animal by-products, no artificial ingredients, no preservatives, and has no color added. This label has nothing to do with the living conditions of the birds, whether they have received antibiotics or hormones, whether they have had access to the outdoors, or the quality of their feed apart from the limitation that it cannot have animal byproducts in it. This very loose label can be used to label even your standard, conventionally raised turkey without stretching the truth. In that way, “Natural” has come to mean just about nothing in the GOOD FOOD world.
The USDA defines a free-range turkey as a bird that has been allowed access to the outside. However, the USDA specifically says that “Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside” - that does not necessarily mean that they took advantage of this access. A bird kept in a cage, with access to a door that leads to the outside could technically be labeled a “free-range” bird. So, if it is important to you that your bird actually experiences the outdoors and gets to enjoy some fresh grass, look for “pastured” or “pasture-raised” in the label.
To be a certified organic turkey, the birds must eat only organic feed (which has no pesticides, herbicides, animal by-products, or genetically modified grains), must never be injected with or fed hormones or antibiotics, and must be free-range (keep in mind that this could simply mean they have access to the outdoors but might not ever see it.)
Fresh vs. Frozen
As dictated by the USDA, a fresh turkey is one that has never been below 26 degrees Fahrenheit (the temperature at which poultry freezes.) The label “Fresh” in no way indicates how recently the turkeys were processed or how long they have been stored at 26 degrees Fahrenheit or slightly above. To simplify, it means the turkeys are raw and thawed. A frozen turkey must be kept at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below and will be solid to the touch.
So, what about the turkeys at The Good Food Collective?
We source our turkeys from Fisher Hill Farms in Canandaigua where Phil and Sandy Munson are carefully raising turkeys for our members.
- These birds are pasture-raised and rotated weekly so that they are always receiving fresh grass.
- Similarly, in addition to the fresh grass they receive, their feed is supplemented with only locally grown, certified organic grains from Lakeview Organics in Penn Yan, NY.
- From the moment that these birds hatch, they are never given any antibiotics or hormones.
- These birds are fresh! Fresh in the way the USDA means and fresh as you might think of it – “just-picked” fresh! They will be processed on Monday, November 24th, and delivered fresh to us on Wednesday morning, November 26th, right before we give them to you! We would wager that you couldn’t find a fresher bird!
We hope this helps clarify the difference between some of the turkey labels out there. Feel free to read more about turkeys over at The Kitchn, at USDA Meat & Poultry Terms, and in this post from Martha Stewart. If you care about sustainably and humanely raised/grown food that you feel good about feeding to your family, then purchase your local turkey here - great for all of the upcoming holidays or simply for a nice Sunday dinner. It doesn’t get much better than these birds!