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Get the Best Bird: Turkey Talk with a Butcher

By Elizabeth Leader Smith, November 2, 2013  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Elizabeth Leader Smith

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.

Category: Holidays, Meat




nancy says ...
So... how does one enter the $250 contest? I can't seem to find the link in the email Thanks Nancy
11/02/2013 4:28:15 PM CDT
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
11/04/2013 8:28:40 AM CST
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
11/04/2013 9:16:51 AM CST
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.
11/04/2013 2:14:20 PM CST
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.
11/04/2013 2:24:49 PM CST
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!
11/04/2013 2:26:27 PM CST
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
11/04/2013 3:18:31 PM CST
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.
11/04/2013 4:38:37 PM CST
margo shoys says ...
do you carry heritage organic turkeys?
11/06/2013 10:00:10 AM CST
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" ?
11/06/2013 12:02:53 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@MARGO - Since our products can vary, check with your local store to find out exactly what they have in stock!
11/06/2013 6:17:36 PM CST
Raheela Hassan says ...
do you have halal( zabiha) organic turkeys please let me know thanks.
11/07/2013 5:49:44 AM CST
ann hurst says ...
Can we order organic breasts and thiyes Thanks
11/07/2013 8:22:27 AM CST
tonybunny2007 says ...
Terrific info and will probably try the brined turkey for the first time.
11/07/2013 8:24:00 AM CST
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...
11/07/2013 11:48:28 AM CST
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
11/07/2013 11:58:19 AM CST
Stu says ...
Will you be selling kosher turkeys, if so which brand
11/07/2013 12:50:29 PM CST
Marsha Tistinic says ...
Brands of organic turkeys and prices per pound please. do they also come legs and thighs only?
11/07/2013 2:41:15 PM CST
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!
11/07/2013 4:20:49 PM CST
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.
11/09/2013 1:43:01 PM CST
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
11/09/2013 10:14:00 PM CST
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?
11/10/2013 2:32:42 PM CST
Crystal says ...
Are your frozen turkey's gluten free? I have seem them with a broth and most broths are not GF. Thanks.
11/10/2013 10:55:25 PM CST
Claire E Shea says ...
Do you get local organically raised turkeys - like from Ekonk Hill Turkey farm?
11/11/2013 9:37:20 AM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@CHARLIE - Thank you for catching that! We have updated the post as there are NO added injections or solutions.
11/11/2013 1:48:58 PM CST