The Turkey Truth
Beyond Labels: Getting to the Truth
Gearing up for Thanksgiving? The ONIE Team went turkey shopping and we found the labels can be misleading. Frozen turkeys were often labeled as “natural,” but have been injected with added water, sodium, spices, artificial flavoring, and other ingredients. Not what most people consider natural. When you purchase a turkey injected with this type of solution, you are not getting your money’s worth of turkey meat. For example, let's say a turkey weighs about 10lbs. If that same turkey contains a 15% natural solution, then 1.5lbs is water, wasting your money.
What does a savvy shopper do?
If possible, choose a turkey that has not been injected with a brine solution. To keep the turkey from drying out, you can make your own salt-free solution. We at ONIE prefer different methods to ensure a juicy turkey. Below are our favorites:
- Soak turkey overnight in an apple cider and water mixture (1 part apple cider and 7 parts water). Remove from water and roast as usual.
- Stuff the cavity of the bird with apple, orange or lemon slices, rosemary, thyme, and a few cloves of garlic.
Roast as usual and discard fruit after cooking.
- Mix unsalted butter with herbs, orange zest, and spices. Loosen the skin of the bird from the meat, and place the butter mixture between the skin and the uncooked meat. Roast as usual.
- Inject turkey with no-salt-added vegetable broth before roasting.
If you’re unable to find an affordable turkey that has not been injected with a salt water solution, choose one with the smallest percentage of added water solution and do NOT “double brine,” or pre-soak the Thanksgiving turkey in a salt-water solution prior to roasting. The portion of the turkey that is a water and salt solution in listed the fine print on the front of the package. Also, check the nutrition label on the back of the bird to see how much sodium has been added. A 4-oz serving of turkey contains 70mg of sodium naturally. If the label states that a 4-oz serving contains 190mg of sodium, then 120mg of the sodium is added salt.
Other helpful tips:
Most of the labels on the front of the packaging are just marketing ploys. A few rules of thumb:
- Premium: This label is has no established meaning. Any company can call its turkey “premium.” It does not mean that it is the best meat around.
- Natural: The label is intended to infer that the turkey doesn’t contain any artificial flavorings, colors, chemical preservatives, or synthetic ingredients. There is no standard definition of the word “natural,” nor any verification that the turkey has not been altered in some way. Labeling a product “natural” is a marketing ploy.
- Gluten-free: Turkeys do not contain any gluten. Only a turkey stuffed with dressing contains gluten. Again, a meaningless marketing ploy.
- No hormones administered. Hormones are prohibited in all poultry production. A turkey labeled “no hormones added” is no different from one without this label.