Understand the terms on turkey labels in the grocery store.

Ever wonder what the terms on turkey labels really mean? Here's the answer.

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Frozen turkey turkey must be labeled as such and a thawed turkey must be labeled as previously frozen. If a turkey has recently been frozen it can include the word ’fresh’ on it’s label in Canada. Thus, Fresh Frozen isn't entirely an oxymoron. The US however does not use the word fresh on any raw poultry that has been chilled to the point it feels hard to the touch. Any turkey chilled under 0F, -17C must in labeled as frozen in Canada and the US.

Fresh turkey can not be chilled under 26F, -3C. Turkey does not freeze at 32F, 0C but at 26F, -3C.

Broiler turkey is the youngest and smallest bird averaging around 10 pounds or 5 kilograms. This is often called a fryer or roaster in the US.

Hen turkey or Tom turkey refers to the gender and size only. Toms or male turkeys are larger than the Hens or female turkeys. Contrary to popular belief this has nothing to do with tenderness or moisture content of the turkey. It does take longer for a Tom turkey to reach maturity, however, the difference is less than a month.

A young turkey is under 8 months old. Most turkeys reach maturity by 4 months and are slaughtered while much younger than 8 months. No turkey you get in the grocery store is over 9 months old when slaughtered.

We all know what stuffed turkey means, a bird filled with stuffing. This is a matter of personal preference but keep in mind that a stuffed turkey takes longer to cook and can cook more unevenly than an unstuffed turkey.

Basted or self basting turkey means that the producer injected the turkey with a solution containing edible fat, usually butter, broth/stock or water and spices or flavor enhancers. All substances must be government approved but you might not approve. So if your getting a basted turkey read the ingredients carefully. If more than 3% of the net weight comes from the basting solution it must be noted on the label. A basted turkey might make for a juicer turkey but it might add stuff you don’t want to your dinner plate. The choice is yours.

The term organic has varying definitions, thus the term certified organic by "name of certifying entity" is used instead. Although systems vary consumers in both the US and Canada can expect to see ‘certified organic by’ labels. Check the certifying entity’s website to see the standards that are used. Consumers can expect that an organic turkey has been fed organic feed, and was free range.

Free Range turkey refers to birds allowed to roam freely with access to safe shelter. Producers must prove that the bird has been allowed to roam while having access to shelter to be approved to use "free range" or "free roaming" on their label in both Canada and the US.

Irradiation is not used in Canada and rarely used in the US. Irradiated meat in the US must have the international radiation logo and the words treated with irradiation or treated by irradiation on the label.

Hormone free is not used on labels because it is illegal in most countries to give hormones to turkeys.

For more information on picking the perfect turkey click here.

To see my favorite turkey recipe click here.

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