TURKEY EXPOSE’: Don’t Pay for Salt Water!
Thanksgiving, our special day of giving thanks, is just three weeks away. The ONIE Project Team has lots of ideas to help you have a healthy and hearty Thanksgiving dinner! Over the next few weeks, we will post recipes and tips on healthy meal preparation. But first, we have a word on the Thanksgiving Turkey. ONIE went on an undercover shopping trip to get the facts about Thanksgiving turkeys. Our advice is buyer beware, many turkeys are “moisture enhanced” which means they are injected with a salt-water solution. For frozen turkeys, 8% to 20% of the bird’s weight could be sodium-water solution. This means you're paying for salt water; a 20 lb “moisture enhanced” turkey equals only 16 lbs of meat (4 lbs is nothing but water). It also means that a 4-oz serving from that same turkey could add as much as 540mg or 23% of the daily recommended amount of sodium to your diet (2300 mg). None of us need this much sodium, especially your favorite uncle with high-blood pressure joining you for dinner. ONIE has some tips to help you make your way through the maze of options.
Step One: Read the Front (Small Font) of the Packaging
The first step is to read the packaging. The amount of "moisture injection" must be disclosed on the front of the turkey. However, we found the description confusing. Sometimes the description of the moisture injected includes the words salt or sodium, or it may just be described as solution without mentioning from what the solution is made. Moreover, the word "natural" can be used on the labels of these injected birds. USDA doesn't regulate the labeling of "100% natural" or "all natural." A turkey can be labeled "natural" and still be injected with ingredients that do not naturally occur in a turkey.
Step Two: Flip the Bird Over
The only ways to evaluate the amount of sodium injected is turn the bird over and read the food label.
Step Three: Reading the label
You have "healthy options" to choose. The first label is from a fresh turkey (not frozen) with no "moisture injection". As you can see on the label, a 4-oz serving of turkey with no salt water added contains about 65mg or 3% of the daily recommended amount of sodium. This is because all turkeys contain some sodium naturally. If this is your choice, these fresh no salt water "moisture injected" turkeys will be in stores starting on November 20th. Our friendly grocery manager, warned us that they will sell out quickly! If you really prefer to have the "moisture injected" turkeys, go with one that doesn't add as much salt. The second label is from a turkey that has been injected with 8% sugar and salt solution; a 4-oz serving contains 190 mg of sodium which is about equal to the amount of calories (170). Both of these options, come close to meeting the one-for-one rule, that is watch your sodium intake by matching the amount of sodium to the amount of calories in each serving.
We at ONIE would not choose the turkey products labeled below, with so much salt water added you really aren't getting a lot of turkey for your dollar. Also, as you can see, the first turkey has 540mg of sodium per 4 oz serving, that is almost 25% of the daily recommended amount per just one serving. It has been injected with approximately 20% of a "moisture solution" so you are paying for a lot of water as well as sodium. The second product contains 230mg of sodium per a4 oz serving, a much better choice than 540mg of sodium but there are better options. This label is from a turkey injected with a 8% solution, which means that 1.6 lbs of your 20 lb turkey is just water.
If you do buy a fresh, no salt water added Turkey do not be concerned that your turkey will be dry because it has not been bathed in salt water or pre-brined.
You can retain the moisture by stuffing the turkey with orange and/or lemon slices, rosemary, thyme, and a few cloves of garlic. Our ONIE test kitchen, we soaked our turkey with apple cider and water. We also basted the chicken while cooking with apple cider. It was juicy! The best part of buying a turkey that has not been "moisture injected" is that you taste the wonderful flavor of turkey meat. You may even save money by buying more meat and no water.
Happy Thanksgiving! From the ONIE Project Team!