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What Labels Mean

Free Range: While this term might imply more, this USDA-regulated term means only that the birds are granted access to the outdoors.

Certified Organic: This USDA-regulated term means that all feed given to turkeys must be certified organic, which means no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, animal by-products or other additives. Turkeys raised to meet certified organic standards also must have access to the outdoors.

Raised Without Antibiotics: This term indicates that the turkey was raised without antibiotics for health maintenance, disease prevention or treatment of disease. Medications not classified as antibiotics may still be used.

No Hormones: The USDA prohibits the use of hormones in poultry, so while the label "hormone-free" is accurate, it doesn’t set one turkey apart from another.

Natural: One of the most widely used labels, the term means that no additives or preservatives were introduced after the poultry was processed (although certain sodium-based broths can be added; read the fine print if this is a concern). "Natural" has absolutely nothing to do with standards of care, type and quality of feed or administration of medications.

Percent Retained Water: To control pathogens like Salmonella, producers must quickly lower the temperature of birds during processing. Most do this by immersing the slaughtered turkeys in a cold bath, which causes them to absorb water. The USDA requires producers to list the maximum amount of water that may be retained.

Certified Humane Raised & Handled: Overseen by a nonprofit endorsed by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society of the United States, this label ensures your turkey received basic standards of care. For instance, CHRH producers must provide at least eight continuous hours of darkness per 24-hour period (unless a period of natural darkness is shorter). Guidelines require producers to provide 2 to 5 square feet of space per turkey, depending on their size

Storage Tips

Refrigerate or freeze turkey as soon as possible after purchase. If refrigerating turkey, be sure to cook it or freeze it by the "Use By" date on the package. If freezing turkey for longer than two weeks, wrap in heavy-duty foil, freezer paper or freezer bags to prevent freezer burn. Frozen turkey should be defrosted in the refrigerator—never at room temperature—to prevent bacterial growth.

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