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Get the Best Bird: Turkey Talk with a Butcher

There’s no denying the importance of turkey this time of year. It’s not only the showpiece of the Thanksgiving table, it’s the centerpiece in most conversations too.

Here’s what we’re hearing: which type of turkey should I serve? How big a bird should it be?

I’ve turned to Beau Klose, one of our meat guys here in Austin, to get the inside scoop.

Q: Aren’t all turkeys sold around town basically the same?

A: No. Whether frozen or fresh, all the turkeys at Whole Foods Market® are required to meet our strict quality standards including:

  • 5-Step™ Animal Welfare rated
  • No antibiotics
  • No animal by-products in their feed
  • No added solutions or injections*
  • No added growth hormones* 

We offer frozen and fresh, including traditional, organic, brined, and heritage. Some stores have kosher birds too.

*Except for pure sea salt solutions for our turkeys labeled "brined." **Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in raising turkeys.

Q: What’s the difference between a fresh bird and a frozen one?

A: Fresh birds offer the freshest, juiciest turkey. If you’re looking for the best value, a frozen turkey is the bird for you.

Don’t worry; whichever you pick will be a quality bird because all the turkeys at Whole Foods Market are from this year's harvest, even the frozen ones.

Q: How big of a bird should I buy?

A: The common rule of thumb is to allow at least 1 pound per person, plus an extra half pound per person if you want leftovers. I always recommend 1.5 pounds per person and 2 pounds for extra, but I am a meat guy and I don’t want anybody to go hungry this time of year!

Just remember that most people prefer either white or dark meat so planning on extra makes sure you are covered.

Q: My family loves dark meat. What’s the best bird for us?

A: If you’re looking to serve more dark meat, I recommend grabbing a few thighs in addition to your turkey.

Alternatively, if white meat is a family favorite, purchase an additional breast.

Q: Which bird are you brining home?

A.  My favorite is an organic turkey. Raised with organic standards, it tastes incredible and no GMO feed is allowed.

Q: What’s the benefit of buying a brined turkey?

A: I’m a big fan of brining. Brining is simply soaking the turkey in a saltwater solution for 4 to 24 hours before roasting. The brine holds in the moisture during roasting giving you a juicy, tender bird. It’s also great to do if you’re smoking the turkey. We have a helpful brining guide in our online Holiday Cheat Sheet.

The problem with doing it yourself is that a big turkey in a big pot of water can get heavy and take up a lot of refrigerator space (which is already in short supply time of year). Instead, pick up one of our hand-brined turkeys. It saves you time and space in the fridge.

Q

: Are there any other tips for getting the best turkey this Thanksgiving?

A: Reserve your bird online or by calling your local store so you get the one that’s right for you and your guests, and pick it up early to avoid the crowds. 

Also, our fresh turkey ships at the USDA recommended temperature of 28 degrees so they develop a thin layer of soft ice. While it’s not technically thawing, you’ll want to make sure the ice crust has time to melt before your bird is ready for the oven.

Oh, and make sure you have a meat thermometer, preferably instant read, to check for doneness. When the thermometer registers 165°F, it’s ready.

There’s a lot more advice in our turkey guide, so you don’t have to stress about it. Enjoy!

Fresh? Frozen? Organic? What kind of bird are you bringing home? Let us know in the comments below.

From carving with confidence to pouring with pride, our online Holiday Cheat Sheet means more of your best for less stress.

Order holiday meals online too; we'll do the work, you'll take the credit.