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Get the Best Bird: Turkey Talk with a Butcher

Turkey TipsThere’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.

Turkey TipsQ: 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.

QTurkey Tips: 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.

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65 comments

Comments

nancy says …

So... how does one enter the $250 contest? I can't seem to find the link in the email Thanks Nancy

S M Mick says …

Thanks for all the pertinent information on turkeys. I do have one question: will you stock Heritage Bronze turkeys for Thanksgiving? If so can I pre-order a particular size. And are you able to give me a cost per pound price please. Many thanks. SMM

moma mueller says …

which turkey gender best, size etc? tom turkey vs hen turkey? Also is the 20 lb turkey less tender than the 13 lb one? Do you use a covered roaster at a lowered temp to capture the juices (like grandma did, at least in Europe she did) and for final 40 mins or so remove to crisp up? What's your chef's take on that? Thanks for reply. Moma

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@SM MICK - All of our pricing and info about turkeys and holiday meals can be found online at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/online-ordering. You can check specifically for your local store.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@NANCY - It is a contest that is through our blog and all you have to do is let us know what you would do with the $250! Leave a comment at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/blog/holiday-meal-giveaway-we-do-work-you-take-credit.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@MOMA - This post is mostly about talking to your local store butcher based on the products they have in stock if you don't see the specific answers listed above. Our butchers are extremely knowledgeable and they would love to help!

Elizabeth Peters says …

I am trying to find out if you will have sliced, cooked, Hoka -- turkey breast for sale (perhaps closer to Thanksgiving)???? I can't seem to find out by phone. Thank you . Elizabeth Peters

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@ELIZABETH - Were you able to call the store directly? Someone in leadership for prepared foods should be able to let you know for sure.

margo shoys says …

do you carry heritage organic turkeys?

Joseph says …

I have received some conflicting information from other sources. Just to clarify: 1) are whole foods turkeys is ever fed animal by-products? 2) are whole foods cold cuts ever fed animal by-products? ALSO: At the top of your article, did you mean to write "No added solutions or injections" instead of "Added solutions or injections" ?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@MARGO - Since our products can vary, check with your local store to find out exactly what they have in stock!

Raheela Hassan says …

do you have halal( zabiha) organic turkeys please let me know thanks.

ann hurst says …

Can we order organic breasts and thiyes Thanks

tonybunny2007 says …

Terrific info and will probably try the brined turkey for the first time.

Charlie says …

The list above says that all of your turkeys have "Added solutions or injections*". I suspect that you maybe mean "No added solutions or injections*"? Or, do you mean something else? I have a sodium limitation... and am particularly interested in a turkey without 10% extra salt solution...

Madeleine Aubry says …

Will you be stocking "capon" in December ? We used to get them from Whole Foods Market every year for our Christmas dinner. Madeleine Aubry

Stu says …

Will you be selling kosher turkeys, if so which brand

Marsha Tistinic says …

Brands of organic turkeys and prices per pound please. do they also come legs and thighs only?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

Hello Everyone! Thank you so much for your interest in our specific holiday offerings. Check with your local store to see exactly what they have in stock. They will be happy to help you all out further!

Sandy says …

Hi--good info on Turkeys. Could you tell me ++Earliest I can buy a fresh, organic turkey and ++Do you have Bell&Evans turkeys now? I like near the Oakland CA store.

Angelita Kabler says …

I have used the special baking bags for my turkeys the last several years. It is easy, convenient and the results are a moist turkey with good browning on the turkey. Angela

Erin Urano says …

Will you have Willie Birds, Diestels & Mary's this year? Have you set the prices yet? When will they arrive in store?

Crystal says …

Are your frozen turkey's gluten free? I have seem them with a broth and most broths are not GF. Thanks.

Claire E Shea says …

Do you get local organically raised turkeys - like from Ekonk Hill Turkey farm?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@CHARLIE - Thank you for catching that! We have updated the post as there are NO added injections or solutions.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

Hey Everybody! Thanks for the amazing turkey questions. If you are looking for a specific brand or type of turkey, it is best to reach out directly to your local store. You can also find out what your store has to offer (including price) at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/online-ordering.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JOSEPH - None of the meat we sell is fed any animal byproducts. Thanks for the heads up on the first question. We have updated to reflect NO injections.

Judith Coughlin says …

How much is your free range fresh turkey for Thanksgiving

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JUDITH - Our pricing and products will differ between stores. You can find turkey prices and options online for your local store at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/online-ordering.

MARTHA BAKER says …

WE WANT TO FRY OUR TURKEY IN A DEEP FAT FRYER. DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE OR RECOMMENDATIONS ON WHAT'S BEST TO GET FOR FRYING ? THANKS !

Walter says …

Can I order a fresh, free-range turkey through you?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@MARTHA - The main thing is size. A smaller 10-14 lb bird will work best and make sure to measure the pot to make sure you have room.  Leave room for the bird to displace the oil so not more than 2/3 of the pot deep and also that there is room on the sides for oil to get around it, hence the smaller size.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@WALTER - You bet! We have a wide range of turkey options. You can check to see what your local store has in stock at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/online-ordering.

Mary DeMarie says …

Looking for an organic cooked Organic Turkey and a cooked organic Breast of Turkey

Denise says …

Does anyone know what stage of the 5-Step™ Animal Welfare rated the turkeys are? I'm forced into Thanksgiving this year and want to purchase a step 5 if possible. Thanks

Angélica - Community Moderator says …

@DENISE: Our turkey varies by region. Your best bet would be to call your local store and ask for the holiday table. They have all that info plus more!

Becky says …

How early can I buy my turkey? How long will an uncooked turkey, either fresh or frozen, last in my fridge?

Mary Larue says …

Your fresh turkeys have a use by date of 12-02. This date is very far out for raw, unfrozen meat. How can I safely keep the bird in my fridge until Thanksgiving ?

justie says …

Are you selling the heritage turkeys? I read about them somewhere on the site, but I do not see where I can order one. I love them.

Janice Gunn says …

Do you have turkuckens?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@BECKY - You can order your turkey now! Check with your local store for info on how long the turkeys will stay in your fridge, etc.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JUSTINE - Check with your local store to see if they have Heritage turkeys in stock!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JANICE - Sometimes we offer turduckens but check with your local store to see what they have in stock!

Ryan says …

In my honest opinion, HERITAGE turkeys have the best flavor. Heritage birds are usually raised in sustainable, organic ways, but because of the slower (and more natural) growth rate, they retain more nutrients and flavor in the meat than the broad-breasted white turkeys do. Once I tried heritage turkey (and other heritage meats, for that matter), I'll never go back to the other varieties.

Mary LaRue says …

MARY LARUE SAYS ... Your fresh turkeys have a use by date of 12-02. This date is very far out for raw, unfrozen meat. How can I safely keep the bird in my fridge until Thanksgiving ? 11/16/2013 2:10:33 PM CST You posted my question, but didn't answer it.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@MARY - My apologies for the oversight! Typically these turkeys are shipped on a "hard chill" with a light crusting of ice on the outer surface to help them hold up. Also the bags, although not cryovacked are very tight and alomost completely air tight which will only be for birds in the bags, not anything that is loose. Double check with the store directly if you have any additional questions, they will be happy to help!

Shirley says …

Looking for turkey breast do you have ? How much per pound? Average weight on hand ? Thank you so much

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@SHIRLEY - With the holiday right around the corner it will vary what is still available in the stores. Check with your local store directly to see what they still have in stock!

Milla says …

Do you have heritage organic turkey ither fresh, frozen or cooked ? Can I order today to pick up tomorrow?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@MILLA - I would suggest calling your local store directly to see what they have left in stock!

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