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Turkey Talk: What’s the Difference?

This holiday season, most of us know to steer clear of conventional turkeys.  Though they’re surely less expensive than organic or natural turkeys, there’s almost no question that conventional turkeys have been given growth hormones, antibiotics, and GMO-feed. Not to mention, these turkeys have also been raised in confined spaces or other inhumane conditions.

If you’d like to get a truly better turkey this holiday, you’ll need to choose a natural, organic, or heirloom turkey. But what are the differences between these three labels?

The turkeys we eat today little resemble those that the first American settlers ate. Luckily, many turkey growers have revived “American Heritage” turkeys, which are increasingly popular each year. These birds typically have darker meat and smaller breasts, because they haven’t been bred to satisfy the American palette, which prefers lighter breast meat in general. It’s important to note that heritage turkeys only specify the breed, and don’t ensure that the turkey has been raised humanely, or with an antibiotic or GMO-free diet. For that reason, it’s always best to buy a heritage turkey that’s been organically raised, or at least raised by a grower you know and trust.

If you’re a more price-sensitive shopper, natural turkeys are probably the best way to go. Consumers should be aware that the word “natural” doesn’t mean much. So when buying these birds, shoppers should need to ask questions about the turkey’s diet and living conditions. After all, “natural” turkeys can still be treated with growth hormones and antibiotics, and raised in confined spaces. Customers should always read the fine print when considering their “natural” options.

The best option of all is to always buy organic. This ensures that the bird was not fed GMO feed, because it is required to eat an organic diet from the day it’s born. Therefore, buying organic birds supports organic grain producers around the country and, by extension, supports a healthier ecosystem.

At Alfalfa’s this year, we’re proud to offer organic heritage turkeys, along with GMO-free natural and organic birds. 

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