Turkey Talk: Is Free Range Or Organic Worth It?

Free-range and organic turkeys cost more, and some say they taste better. Are they worth it?
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Photo by: Tara Donne ©2009

Tara Donne, 2009

My mom still tells the story about the year she ordered a free-range turkey. She almost choked when she went to pay for it because it was more than six times what a regular turkey cost! Now that I have Thanksgiving at my house, I’m faced with the same dilemma -- is it worth it to get these extra pricey birds?
Get The Facts

The appeal of free-range turkeys is that they are raised with access to outdoor space so they can roam -- many folks believe that this makes for better tasting meat. Farmers also raise these turkeys in a more human environment (no messy, cooped-up quarters), which wins extra points with food advocates. Add to that list the fact these turkeys get fed higher quality food and farmers don't use hormones or antibiotics on them.

As for organic turkeys, they are certified as being raised following strict parameters (though they may not be free range) and are only fed organic food. Usually free-range birds are also organic, but make sure you ask your meat provider or read the store packaging carefully.

What About a "Local" And Other Labels?

Local poultry ranches are usually smaller operations and take more care in raising their animals. Many use free-range and organic practices (even if they aren’t certified organic). If you're interested in keeping your feast local, call up the farmer to ask for details ahead of time.

Poultry also often has other labels such as “natural,” “grass-fed” or “no added hormones” -- check out our eco-friendly label decoder to help make sense of these tags.

Ka-Ching!

Yes, these more specialized turkeys cost more -- in many cases, A LOT more. We priced out options from various online grocery stores and the costs varied. Some turkeys were more than $10 per pound. Here’s what we found on average:

Regular turkey = $0.89-$2.99 per pound
Organic = $5.50-$6.20 per pound
Free Range = $4.59-$6.93 per pound

If getting a free-range or organic bird is important to you, you can save some money by picking a smaller size. Yes, this does mean fewer leftovers, but most people buy way more turkey than they need anyway. In this case, you'd be splurging on quality, not quantity.

What To Look For

Pay attention to the labels on fresh or frozen birds or ask your butcher or local farmer for more details. Free-range and organic turkeys are often in high demand; so if you choose to get one, you should order it now (if you haven't already).

TELL US: What kind of turkey are you planning to get this year?
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