Let’s face the facts: A manufactured turkey tastes like a manufactured turkey. In point of fact, even calling it a manufactured turkey should turn your stomach. Do you really think a turkey which will feed your family— your spouse, children, and friends— should really be worth $5 and change? In this lifetime, you get what you pay for. What does $5 worth of turkey taste like? Cardboard.
Store Bought Turkey: A Chemical Playground
The problem often has to do with the age of the turkey. Its pulled off a manufacturing line, “Processed”, pumped full of liquids to make it look big, and frozen. How long is that turkey frozen? Well, they’re not required to tell you. You cannot look the farmer in the eye and ask, only the taste will tell you. So, does it taste fresh? Some companies will inject their turkeys with phosphates and other water- and fat-retention compounds, so that the “overcooked” parts seem more juicy. A modern American drops a turkey in an oven and walks away to stare at their TV, never thinking about the flavor their missing. But even the miracles of modern science can’t help when a turkey is blasted with heat for hours on end and roasted to near-coal.
Most home cooks are content to follow the directions on the turkey wrapper (like its a box of macaroni or can of soup), which tells them to cook the turkey at 350 degrees for roughly 20 to 30 minutes per pound (pretty wide discrepancy, that). They’ll throw it in the oven first thing in the morning, baste it a couple times over the course of the day, and just lay around until the completely useless built-in thermometer most commercial turkeys have in them pops up, indicating that the center is up to the temp it needs to be. They expect turkey to be bland, tasteless, and they lean on the flavors of gravy to cover their poor decisions.
Free Range Organic to the Rescue
A turkey who isn’t cramped into a cage its whole life is bursting with flavors, strong, and full of living joy from great treatment. You can taste it in every bite, and you’ll never go back. The loosely packed stuffing and water-rich vegetables inside the roasting bird retain that cooking moisture and swell, creating a moist, flavorful bird and dressing your family will fight over. Isn’t that what you want? At Southern Shepherd Farms, I think we know the answer as well as you do.
A few years ago, a vast amount of store-bought turkeys were recalled because they harbored “drug-resistant salmonella”. The increased cost of many turkeys has to do with the amount of growth hormones, drugs, and antibiotics these turkeys require to meet “living standards”. Some brands seek to undercut the cost by offering scrawny birds inflated with water, or re-offering unsold frozen birds. I won’t link to it here, but you can certainly find videos of turkey inflation by searching for “cheating in Turkey : filled with water.unbelievable”.
People do not taste things “blind”. When you say you have a $5 turkey and it was a great bargain, its not a mistake that it tastes like a $5 turkey. Especially building on the dry, stringy flavor of that bird. On the other hand, let them taste your free range, organic turkey and its a different story. Tell them how you met the farmer, how you visited a real, living farm and not a sterile grocery aisle, and watch how that flavor is reflected in a juicy, savory bird.
Alternatives? I think not
You may find that some people have a way to make their flavorless bird seem appetizing. Many use a deep-frying method, hoping a moist heat will bring some flavor— any flavor at all— back to their $5 bargain bird. Why risk your life just to get flavor? Deep-frying a whole turkey is incredibly dangerous. Don’t believe me? Well, there are countless YouTube fried turkey fail compilations that prove this—check it out if you want to see dads dropping bargain birds into their deep-fat friers only to run away a second later as the whole operation becomes a deck-consuming fireball. You don’t need to call to the fire department to make turkey taste good. What you need is quality from the start.
Many of your friends skimp on quality only to fervently mention that “presentation is more important than taste on Thanksgiving”. Well, you certainly have a point there. The taste of a $5 bird roasted for hours without attention really clues us in as to why we all drink so much on Thanksgiving. It’s probably to help us forget how miserable the turkey tastes. Anyway, at least you still have family and friends to make it tolerable.
So, why not make your family happy, watch their eyes feast on the bird with the moistest, most flavorful meats you’ve ever had. Will it be another year of “Cardboard drowning in gravy” or will it be a year of fantastic “Free range fantasy”.