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Organic or Frozen, Which Turkey is Best?

My state newspaper, The Denver Post, published an article about Organic, natural birds versus the standard frozen turkeys found in our local grocery stores including the famed Butterball. Which turkey won the judges vote? Is it a no-brainer?

“The big surprise”, writes food editor Kristen Browning-Blas, “is that the organic and natural birds fared so poorly against the rest of the frozen flock.” I guess enhanced frozen turkey with salt, stock and other flavorings also known as a pre-brined bird, impressed the panel of judges including a food editor and her family, food writers, Denver Post Dining critic, students, business writers and a few others.

The turkeys tested included Butterball, Jennie-O Oven Ready, King Sopers Private Selection, Honeysuckle White, and Heidi’s Hens and Diestel. They had culinary students at Johnson and Wales University cook all the birds to 170 °F. The turkeys were rated for looks, flavor, texture, and moistness of meat by the esteemed panel of judges.

Butterball won first place followed by Honeysuckle White, and third place went to King Soopers Private Selection. The judges said the natural and Organic turkeys were dry and stringy.

So if you haven’t already bought a bird, you can save a bundle, by purchasing an $8.00 bird rather than a $50 -60 Organic/Natural bird. Or you can brine your own natural bird yourself to get moisture and flavor inside the meat. Note, Butterball has a 7 percent solution of salt and “natural flavors”. I believe natural flavors is another word for MSG. According to the article, Honeysuckle White has no MSG.

I am cooking two huge birds this week end to get a head start on Thanksgiving. We have our all-church Thanksgiving Dinner on Sunday, and I’m bringing turkey and gravy. I’m cooking my other turkey ahead so all I have to do is reheat on Thursday.

My turkeys are King Soopers Private Selection. I’ll let you know how these $8.00 birds fare next week.

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3 comments to Organic or Frozen, Which Turkey is Best?

  • http://www.cooksillustrated.com/tasting.asp?tastingid=610&bdc=7320&ex
    7LH1CA00

    Marilyn, Is this the same article? They did find that the breed of turkey mattered. I am fortunate to have one of the heritage breed turkeys from Mike Walters so hopefully it will have been worth the extra money.

    Thanks for all your great recipes- love your site and love my Bosch. :-)

    Terrill

  • Andrea

    This may or may not be relevant to this but……. a relative of mine was just telling me this (he is a farmer)……… I’m getting chickens this next week and was ready to spend lots of extra time and money to make my eggs ORGANIC……….. well, he says that if I free range them (which I do plan on doing) they will go directly to the cow plops on our farm and eat AND they also “eat” their own manure ! YUK ! I was concerned about the dead animal matter in commercial feeds – he says that chickens are scavengers and will eat dead animals if given the chance so whay bother with ORGANIC ! UGH ! So now, I’m going to buy feed (no antibiotics of course or other meds./chemicals) at the mill and give them all my table scraps and veggie garbage and have my family eat all the eggs they want ! =) =) =) I think alot of time, organic is way overrated. Don’t take me wrong – I prefer fruits and veggies not to be sprayed also beef to not eat poorly but with chickens, I’m going to do the best I can and not worry so much about 100% organic ! =) =)

  • Diana Smith

    We get our pastured organic turkey from Mennonite friends and there is nothing stringy or dry about them….they are totally delicious. Yes, the price is high but we feel like it is worth it. Cooked in our Weber grill it is a real treat. DEE

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