How often do you eat turkey? 36% of US consumers enjoy turkey at least once per week (YouGov, 2015). Turkey is the #4 consumed animal protein (USDA World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimate, 2016), and, today, there are more turkey products and cuts than ever!
June is Turkey Lovers’ Month®, so it’s the perfect time to talk turkey. We find that many of our guests have questions when it comes to turkey, so we wanted to dig into the top five questions that we hear. To respond to these questions, we referred to the National Turkey Federation’s website for some answers.
Photo courtesy of the National Turkey Federation
5 Turkey Truths
Are turkeys given hormones or steroids for growth?
No. All turkeys are free from any addition of either hormone or steroids. Adding hormones in poultry is prohibited by federal law. Genetic improvements, better feed formulation and modern management practices have resulted in the meatier turkeys for today's consumer.
What is the role of antibiotics in raising turkeys?
Turkey farmers grow for the consumers' preference while striving to offer affordable value for all Americans in choice and variety. They use antibiotics to treat infection to ensure their flocks do not suffer from disease.
Measured antibiotic use is prescribed with withdrawal time to ensure turkey is safe to eat. Purpose for treatment, type of medicine, and dosage as well as mandated time for medicines to clear the animals' system before marketing are strictly limited by FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine and confirmed by test results overseen by USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
What are the differences among free range, organic and natural turkeys?
For poultry, the term “free ranging” is regulated and requires that the bird have access to the outdoors, but for an undetermined period each day.
“Certified Organic” meats are from livestock that have been raised and certified in compliance with the National Organic Program’s standards. Their production must be certified by an accredited state or private certifying agency. Animal health is maintained through high quality nutrition obtained predominately through pasture grazing and by supplementing with organically grown feeds. Organic farmers are required to provide humane treatment, which includes access to the outdoors. Sick animals are to be treated as necessary, but can no longer be marketed as organic if dewormed or antibiotic intervention was required.
“Natural” is a food label that does not refer to how the animal was raised but rather to how it was processed. Natural products can contain no artificial ingredients, coloring agents, or chemical preservatives and must be minimally processed. Meat can be ground, smoked, roasted, dried, or frozen as long as these procedures do not fundamentally change the raw product.
What are turkeys fed?
Turkeys are fed corn and soybean meal containing minerals and vitamins.
Are turkeys raised in cages?
No. Turkeys are allowed to roam freely within their barns with constant water and feed. Turkeys are raised in these scientifically designed, temperature-regulated barns with maximum space and protection from weather, insects, rodents, predators and visitors who might carry disease.
Looking for ways to enjoy more turkey? Our Mealtime Mentors love featuring ground turkey breast, turkey burgers, turkey brats, turkey hot dogs, turkey bacon, deli turkey meat and more in recipes. Check out our favorite turkey recipes!
For more information about all things turkey, visit serveturkey.org.
Lauren Tulig is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with Festival Foods and certified in the state of Wisconsin.
Disclaimer: The information provided here is intended for general information only. It is not intended as medical advice. Health information changes frequently as research constantly evolves. You should not rely on any information gathered here as a substitute for consultation with medical professionals. Information may not be reproduced without permission from Festival Foods. We strongly encourage guests to review the ingredient lists of suggested products before purchasing to ensure they meet individual dietary needs. All products not available at all Festival locations.