This post was originally posted last year on November 13th, and it is the perfect time for a poultry refresher.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I wanted to let you in on the Grocer’s Turkey secrets! Popular to common belief, not all turkeys are created equal and not all consumers are educated before making their poultry decisions! Before you purchase your prized bird for your family feast, make sure you know these 6 turkey labels to look for!
No Antibiotics: This term signifies a producer’s demonstration of animals being raised without antibiotics. However, whether or not the bird was fed antibiotics, there is a law that the animals must go through a “withdrawal” to allow traces of antibiotics to leave the turkey before it is slaughtered, to ensure the complete absence of antibiotic residues in the bird. So whether your label reads “No Antibiotics” or not, come time to eat, your bird will not contain any antibiotics.
No Hormones: Producers use this term to trick you into thinking that other turkeys that are not their brand are filled with nasty hormones. FALSE! By law, Hormones are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry. In order to even use the “No Hormones” label, it must be followed by the statement “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.”
So far we have learned that ALL turkeys in the grocery stores are able to be served up at your Thanksgiving Day feast without any antibiotics or hormones, thanks to the laws in place.
- Three other labeling tactics are the Organic, Natural, and Free range labels.
Organic uses those generic No Hormone, No Antibiotic labels, as well as labels that express that their turkeys will have been raised organically on certified organic land that has outdoor access and fed certified organic feed. This is nice except for the fact that although they have access to the outdoors, how many turkeys actually get outside? For this Organic label you will likely be paying 6X more at the grocery store.
Natural: Natural was the most truthful label I have seen so far. Natural means minimally processed and contains no artificial ingredients. The turkeys are fed animal by-products, which wild turkeys are accustomed to. No notation of the diets or living conditions is needed for this label.
Free Range is another deceptive label. Free Range labeling does not require a producer to have a set allowance of outdoor time in the wind and sun, the minimum requirement that they have is to have outdoor access (sound familiar). Being labeled “Free Range” does not necessarily mean better or worse living conditions.
So what have we learned? As you can see marketing ploys are all over your Thanksgiving packaging, from how the turkeys are raised to what is in the meat you purchase. This Thanksgiving make sure you are educated about your purchases and if you have farming friends, ASK questions or ask right here in the comments! These labels are out there to make money, not to tell consumers the truth! Don’t be fooled by marketing this season.
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at IL Corn!
Illinois State University