Let’s Talk Turkey
January 17, 2023
How to decode labels to choose a better Thanksgiving bird
By Dawn Undurraga, Nutritionist and Sonya Lunder, Senior Analyst and Megan Boyle
Confused by the labels on turkeys? We help you sort out the facts with a new label decoder.
Almost all turkeys raised and sold in the U.S. are:
- Bred for abnormally large, white breast
- Raised in crowded conditions
- Likely treated with antibiotics and growth-boosting hormones
- January be injected with saline/brine, oils, flavors or preservatives
For a better bird, look for these types or labels. Some turkeys may fit more than one category.
USDA Certified Organic
- No GMO feed, antibiotics or growth promoters
- Outdoor access
Heritage or Heirloom
- Descended from a historic breed to preserve genetic diversity and prevent extinction.
- Tend to be smaller than conventional turkeys
- True heritage turkeys should be bred by natural mating and raised mostly outdoors
These animal welfare certifications ensure that turkeys have meaningful outdoor access and are raised without antibiotics or growth promoters.
- Certified Humane
- Global Animal Partnership – Steps 3-5+
- Animal Welfare Approved
These turkeys are raised mostly outdoors, but how much varies. The animal welfare certifications above help confirm that they have adequate time outdoors.
Labels that don’t mean much
Don’t be fooled by these labeling claims.
No standard definition – contact the producer for details.
These turkeys get less outdoor access than you think – they’re raised mostly indoors.
Questionable. The only clear benefit is that turkeys cannot be injected with colors or artificial flavors. Natural flavors may be allowed.
Learn more about healthy holiday meals: ewg.org/foodscores/holiday