Grocery stores, farmer's markets, co-ops and butcher shops across America are stocked with the season's favorite poultry product.
When it comes to selecting a turkey, it is hard to wade through all of the gobbledygook and choose the best bird for your brood.
With the terms natural, organic, heritage, pastured and free-range it can be confusing to figure out which option suits your needs, your family and your wallet.
A free-range turkey is exactly what the name implies. It means the turkey is allowed to roam around free, for at least part of the time, in a pasture without being confined to a cage or living space.
This type of farming allows the turkey to receive natural sunlight and exercise which might otherwise be prevented at other types of farms, such as factory farms.
One thing to keep in mind when purchasing a free-range bird, is to make sure the label reads all natural and organic. Not all free-range turkeys are fed a natural diet, and this is something you will want to have if you decided to invest in this type of turkey.
According to Epicurious.com, a Bell and Evans free-range turkey costs $2.99/lb.
Heritage turkeys are about as traditional as you can get. Heritage turkeys are breed naturally, are pretty resilient when it comes to disease and most closely resemble those turkeys eaten at the first Thanksgiving. These types of turkeys live long and pretty happy lives and feast on mostly grasses.
This type of bird often contains more dark meat than white meat, and breed at a slower rate than those turkeys raised by industry farms.
This type of turkey is a poultry pal to their farmers and often help with pest control.
According to the Washington Post, a heritage turkey can run in the neighborhood of about $7/lb.
The word "natural" can mean a good deal of things. Unfortunately, some things labled natural (like 7-up) doesn't necessarily mean it is the healthiest option.
When it comes to turkey, it is important to read the label and make sure that no artificial flavorings or preservatives have been added. Typically, the USDA will closely monitor this and make sure the only things that are added are salt, water and other natural flavorings.
After doing some research and cost comparison, I think this is the route we are going to go for our Thanksgiving turkey. We will also be looking for a turkey that does not contain hormones, because this is something that is very important to my family.
Fresh Murray's Natural Turkeys can cost between $2.99 to $4.99/lb. However, I did see natural Butterball turkeys for sale at our local Wal-Mart for about $1.08/lb.
When it comes to eating healthy, organic is one of the buzz words that is heard ad nauseum. What organic means is that a food has not been produced with any type of chemical pesticides, fertilizers or additives. Food is certified organic by the USDA, who heavily regulates what is considered organic and what is not.
When it comes to turkeys, it means the turkey has been feed organic feed all of its life and has never been treated with anti-biotics.
If buying an organic turkey is important to you, make sure that it is certified organic. There are some farmers that do practice organic methods of turkey cultivation, but are not certified or regulated by the USDA.
Sometimes the organic distinction can come hand-in-hand with the natural or free-range birds. This is almost like a "turkey power up."
A Fresh Eberly Organic Free-Range turkey costs about $3.99/lb.
A pastured turkey means the bird is allowed to roam free, and hunt and peck for its diet of bugs and grasses. It is this diet of bugs and grasses that offers this type of bird a unique flavor. This principle is similar to the difference that is tasted between cage free eggs and factory raised eggs.
Because the turkey is allowed to roam more, it gets more exercise and offers a more developed taste to their meat (or so I have been told).
According to texasgrassfeedbeef.com (that apparently also sells grass fed turkeys) sells their birds for $8.59/lb.
Holy wishbones! In my opinion, this is way too much for me to pay for a turkey. While, I am glad to see the birds are ethically treated, are raised very natural and I am sure are very tasty, I just cannot justify spending this much money on a turkey. But, if you are able to afford this, more power to you and let me know what time to be over your house for dinner!
I am sure there are various other kinds of turkeys available, but these are the ones that are most popular, and you are more likely to encounter at your market.
But, just like with every other item that is on your table this Thanksgiving, it doesn't matter what you eat, it is who you spend the holiday with that is most important. If you make everything with love, you can't go wrong.