A 4-Step Plan to Shopping for a Turkey Like a Third-Generation Butcher
Theo Weening is a third-generation butcher and the Global Meat Buyer at Whole Foods Market. His in-depth knowledge of raising practices, cuts and preparation techniques have made him a highly sought-out national expert. Below, find Theo’s thoughts and tips on buying the perfect bird.
1. Go Fresh
Thanksgiving is a special meal, so consider buying a fresh turkey. We sell fresh turkeys during Thanksgiving — I think the flavors and texture are just so much better (but a frozen turkey will still be delicious). Funny story — when we first started offering fresh birds, customers would come in and complain about turkeys being overcooked or done too early. They weren’t used to cooking truly fresh!
2. Size Generously
I love having turkey leftovers, so I recommend going for more than what you really need. Rule of thumb is 1.5 – 2 pounds per person, but I’d get an 18 – 20-pounder for six people. Bigger birds have more white meat, which is what lots of people really want. Also, you’ll have plenty extra for soups, sandwiches or just to nibble at. Keep in mind that a 30-pound bird might not be as tender, so consider two smaller ones if you have a large group.
3. Know Your Turkeys
Organic turkeys get organic feed (which also means non-GMO), and the birds are given access to fresh air and the outdoors.
Kosher turkeys are rubbed with kosher salt inside and out and are checked by specially trained rabbinical inspectors to make sure they’re processed in accordance with kosher standards. The kosher salt pre-seasons the bird and gives it extra flavor.
Heritage turkeys are leaner, with a smaller meat-to-bone ratio and can be very flavorful.
Heirloom turkeys are a little bigger than heritage turkeys, but they’re still really flavorful. Lots of great dark meat here. I’ve been on a bronze heirloom kick for the past couple of years.
Pre-brined turkeys are hand-brined the old-fashioned way, using a blend of salt and spices. For Christmas, when I fry a turkey, I go brined.
4. Know What Our Turkeys Have In Common
We offer so many different turkey choices, but they all have a few important things in common.
They’re raised with no antibiotics, ever. They’re all Global Animal Partnership 5-Step Animal Welfare Rated (except kosher turkeys). Third-party auditors visit farms we work with, inspecting to make sure the birds are raised to our standards, including feed without animal byproducts — I love that! We know our suppliers; we know how they grow their birds.
Expert advice often makes the difference between a good Thanksgiving and a legendary Thanksgiving. You’re well on your way. (Feel free to chat with our experts behind the counter in the Meat department. They love talking turkey!)