What is an Organic Turkey?

(Last Updated On: November 21, 2015)

Costco Turkey Thanksgiving Prices 2015

As you are pursuing your options for this year’s Thanksgiving bird, one of the factors you must consider is whether or not to get an organic turkey. You know while you would want to buy organic fruit or vegetables, to avoid food from trees sprayed with pesticides. But they certainly don’t spray pesticides directly on turkeys. So wouldn’t all turkeys be organic? The USDA are certain requirements that turkey or any poultry must be to be certified organic. As you read them you will see why all turkeys are not organic.

Organic Turkey

“Farmers and ranchers must accommodate the health and natural behavior of their animals year-round. For example, organic livestock must be:
– Generally, managed organically from the last third of gestation (mammals) or second day of life
– Allowed year-round access to the outdoors except under specific conditions (e.g., inclement weather).
– Raised on certified organic land meeting all organic crop production standards.
– Raised per animal health and welfare standards.
– Fed 100 percent certified organic feed, except for trace minerals and vitamins used to meet the animal’s nutritional requirements.
– Managed without antibiotics, added growth hormones, mammalian or avian byproducts, or other prohibited feed ingredients (e.g., urea, manure, or arsenic compounds).

(To read more visit the USDA’s website)

The two biggest things here is that the turkey is raised on organic land and fed 100% organic feed. What goes in the turkey need to be organic. If you are eating the turkey you are eating what the turkey ate indirectly. If that concerns you, you may want to consider an organic turkey.

In mass production of turkeys at places that are more like factories than farms, turkeys are fed a diet high in grain and corn without the food they would get if they were allowed to roam free. The cheap feed in all likelihood is going to have been treated with pesticides when growing and if it’s corn or soy is going to be genetically modified corn or soy. The chemicals they ingest can end up building up in their fatty tissues, which you then eat. Yummmy!

Antibiotics Used in Poultry Production
Another thing to be concerned about is antibiotics. When living in such tight quarters, sickness and disease is more likely. So the poultry is given antibiotics in their feed to “protect them” and any remnants of the antibiotics that remains in their system we digest. A turkey cannot be given antibiotics if it is to be considered organic.

Know Where Your Food Comes From
Just because a turkey is not organic doesn’t mean that it was fed “toxic sludge” it’s whole life. This is where getting to know where your food comes from is important. If you have concerns, express them to whoever produces the turkey you want to buy. If you don’t get the answers you want, move on. There is plenty of time now before Thanksgiving to ask these questions.

A Word About Growth Hormones
Whether organic or not, all turkeys grown in the US must be done so without given growth hormones. That practice is illegal, no matter how you raise your bird. So when that is listed on the packaging for a turkey is really isn’t telling you anything you didn’t already know.

How Much Does an Organic Turkey Cost?
It would be easy to buy organic if money is not object, but for many of us that is not the case. The cheapest organic turkeys I found where going for $3.99 per pound. A 15-pound bird is going to set you back $59.85. Until we can increase the demand for organic turkey and find ways to make producing them cheaper without sacrificing the organic integrity, the prices are going to be too high for a lot of Americans. Don’t feel guilty if that is the case.

Look for Antibiotic Free Turkeys
If you can’t go organic this year, maybe you can at least try to avoid turkeys given antibiotics. Select Whole Foods stores carry Nature’s Rancher turkeys that are antibiotic free, even though they are not certified organic. They go for $2.49/pound in most stores, with a few select stores at an even cheaper $1.99/pound (check my Whole Foods Market turkey price list). Trader Joe’s turkeys are also antibiotic free. Shop around, see what you can find in your price range. Consider a smaller bird to save money. Smaller turkeys cook quicker anyway, which means less chance of drying them out.

3 Replies to “What is an Organic Turkey?”

  1. An Antibiotic Free Turkey is not the whole picture when shopping. They have to be grass fedand treated humanely. I found Trader Joe’s selling Kosher Turkeys that are feed 100% corn. Not something I would recommend.

  2. With organic turkeys, as you mention, they are fed organic food. This is critically important especially with any genetically modified feed, which you also mentioned- but to completed the story, genetically modified feed (such as corn or soy) has insecticide not just ON it, but in it– and that insecticide is glyphosate (commonly known as Roundup). Of course this is the same thing you injest if you don’t eat organic corn or at. So in the end, if you don’t eat an organic turkey, in addition to antibiotics, you are also consuming insecticide. Reason enough to pay a bit more for organic- as the saying goes.. ” Pay the farmer or pay the pharmacist!”

  3. Eric Samuelson says:

    That is a very important point as well. Paying the farmer is far better (and a lot cheaper!)

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