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.

Heritage Breeds

Heritage breeds, such as Royal Palm, Bourbon Red and Slate, are older registered breeds of turkey. At Heritage Foods USA, to qualify as “heritage,” turkeys must be able to breed naturally, grow slowly and cannot be slaughtered until they are at least 160 days old. (After 10 weeks, they must also have access to the outdoors from 8 a.m. until dusk.)

A varied diet of plants, grasses and insects gives heritage breeds a more nuanced flavor than conventional turkeys. If rich and gamy is what you crave, order a wild turkey from D’Artagnan ( They have Eastern Wild Turkeys in the 9-pound range available from September through March.

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