Be Thankful for Organic Turkeys

Want to get some flavour back into the turkey dinner? Forget those over-sized supermarket gobblers and try an organic or heritage turkey.

By Shelagh McNally for

In trying to get the plumpest turkeys in the shortest amount of time we have sacrificed taste. Our holiday turkeys may be huge but that doesn't mean they are the tastiest.

Manufactured Gobblers

One of the problems is the high demand for turkey. During the holiday season, North Americans consume close to 400 million turkeys and the industry has responded by creating “turbo-birds”–turkeys chemically and genetically modified. These broad-breasted birds are prized for their white meat but often don’t deliver on the promise of juicy, tender meat.

Epicureans are turning to organic turkeys for their flavour as well as health benefits. Organic turkeys tend to be be healthier and have less risk for salmonella. 

But for some people buying organic is  also a question of animal rights and guilt-free eating.

Manufactured Lives

Mass produced turkeys often have miserable lives, living in overcrowded conditions inside underneath heat lamps gorging on fortified corn-based mash laced with antibiotics and hormones. Most never see the light of day and since they are six times their normal weight, many end up with broken bones or die from heart attacks.

Born Free

Organic turkeys on the other hand spend their days outside in grazing areas eating a diet free of pesticides, herbicides, hormones or antibiotics. Many supermarkets are carrying both chickens and turkeys labeled free-range or antibiotic-free. Free-range means the turkeys have been confined to a cage but got regular exercise and their diets were augmented with grubs, worms and grass. But be careful, Canada hasn’t regulated free-range standards. The safest way to know if your turkey is organic is to buy it from a farmer or health food store you know and trust.

Save a Breed

The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) and the Slow Food Movement are also promoting heritage or legacy turkeys. These organizations are working to save four of the best-known heritage turkeys eaten by our forefathers before the era of manufactured birds. The four most popular breeds, the Bourbon Red, MEJersey buff, Narragansett bay and standard bronze, are all renowned for their taste.

Fresh vs. Frozen

Another benefit of organic turkeys is that most come fresh. Why is fresh better than frozen? Again, it’s down to taste. Turkeys need to age for three days to make them tender, but most frozen birds are thrown on ice immediately after being processed. If you are buying a frozen gobbler, be sure to brine your bird–a method of soaking your unthawed turkey in salt water before roasting. It’s worth the effort since it makes the meat tender and juicy.

Veggies Only

For those who want to avoid the bird altogether, there is the famous tofurkey, a popular substitute for the traditional turkey.

Be sure to check out our recipe section for more holiday recipes and tips. Use the RD recipe finder to find your favourites!

Published in : Food & Recipes » Healthy Food
Average: 2 (1 vote)

Stack Adapt

Recent Features

  • 7 Foods You Should Never Buy Again>>

    How to steer your grocery cart clear of inferior fare.>>

  • 6 Healthy Eating Tips for Thanksgiving>>

    The holidays are the hardest time of year to eat right. Luckily, a Thanksgiving turkey means you'll be eating lean white meat, which is a great start toward healthier eating. Find out what else you can do to enjoy your meal without increasing your cholesterol—or your waistline.>>

  • 6 Foods to Help Prevent Alzheimer's>>

    Alzheimer's disease often begins with what appears to be simple forgetfulness, but it wreaks much more havoc over time, destroying speech, comprehension, and coordination and causing restlessness and dramatic mood swings. One in three people over the age of 80 will be its victim, and most of us sit back and hope we won't be one of them. The right diet may delay the onset of the disease or lower your risk by as much as 40%. So, isn't a diet change worth it?>>

  • How to Eat Healthy at Every Age>>

    Your body isn’t the same as it was 10 years ago—and neither are your nutritional needs. Here’s how to eat for optimal health in your 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond.>>

  • 8 Organic Foods Worth Buying>>

    Put these organic groceries at the top your shopping list—they're well worth the extra money.>>

  • Meatless March>>

    Hearty veggie dishes for the last weeks of winter.>>

  • 10 Easy Ways to Reduce Calories>>

    Losing a few pounds doesn't have to be a struggle. These simple swap-outs let you enjoy all the tasty goodness of your favourite treats but with a fraction of the calories!>>

  • 8 Salads to Make for a Quick Dinner>>

    It’s time to stop thinking of salad as a first course or a side dish to the main meal. These 8 salads are delicious, healthy, and hearty enough to be a meal by themselves. The bonus: They’ll be on the table in no time.>>

  • 10 Belly-Friendly One Dish Meals>>

    Do you get an upset stomach after some meals? Here are 10 delicious dishes with known belly-friendly ingredients to keep you satisfied and stomach pain-free.>>

  • What to Eat for a Happy Belly>>

    More than half of Canadians suffer from digestive disorders. Here’s what to indulge in and what to avoid.>>

  • 5 Foods to Fight off Colds>>

    When cold and flu season comes around, add some of these food fighters into your diet to help you ward off a nasty bug.>>

  • 5 Recipes To Soothe Your Stomach>>

    We all get belly aches from time to time, but if your stomach is causing you real pain, the new 21-Day Tummy book could help you soothe (and shrink) your stomach. Here are five recipes to get you started.>>

  • 9 Summer Foods That Are Healthier Than You Think>>

    The fact that these foods are healthy may not surprise you, but their health benefits might. Read on for extra reasons to consume these nourishing nibbles this summer.>>

  • 11 Dinner Recipes Under 300 Calories>>

    Looking for some low-calorie, tasty dinners? Here are 11 recipes, all under 300 calories, that you can make for dinner tonight.>>

  • 8 Ways to Escape the Trans Fat Trap>>

    Reducing your dietary intake of trans fat is essential for improving your health. Keep your heart happy and healthy by substituting these healthier choices next time you're out shopping for food.>>

Your Comments