Turkey Buyer's Guide

Do you need a heritage turkey or will conventional do?

In the EatingWell Test Kitchen, we roasted more than 20 turkeys, including all-natural and conventional birds, while preparing our Thanksgiving story and found that conventional birds (with added salt solution) do stay moister, but if you’re watching your sodium intake, avoid them.

Conventional Birds

Conventional birds are often “pre-basted” or “self-basting,” meaning that the turkey is injected with a solution that can contain broth, stock, water, seasonings, salt and/or other flavor. This can account for up to 3 percent of the net weight of the bird. The label must include all of the ingredients in the solution.

The Broad-Breasted White—the breed of most conventional turkeys—was bred to grow quickly, producing a lot of meat fast, particularly in the breast area. Artificial insemination is necessary for reproduction. Hens are slaughtered between 14 and 16 weeks of age, and weigh in at 14 to 17 pounds, while toms go to slaughter at 16 to 20 weeks of age, when they weigh a whopping 26 to 40 pounds.

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