Since You Asked: Talk turkey with these terms

A question in one of your recent issues referred to a "green" turkey. What exactly qualifies a bird for that description?

— Russ, L., Talent

We didn't ask for clarification on that one but consider "green" one of those adjectives with a variety of meanings depending on the context.

When talking turkey, there are few terms that apply:

  • Heritage — Probably the hottest category among food lovers, this term is not legally regulated. Basically, it means anything but the standard turkey breed: the Broad-Breasted White. Heritage birds tend to be leaner with less meat, so they won't feed as many people and will dry out if not cooked carefully. They also have a gamier flavor, appreciated by some but not everyone. Often raised by small farmers using traditional methods, these birds commonly are marketed as "sustainable" and eco-friendly.
  • Free-range — This legal definition requires raising the birds with access to the outdoors. There's a bit of wiggle room. They don't necessarily need to have access to pasture or grass, just the outdoors, which can mean dirt or gravel.
  • Organic — These turkeys have been raised without hormones and steroids and have been processed without preservatives. In addition, they have been fed only organic feed and have ready access to the outdoors.
  • Pastured — This is a new, non-regulated definition that goes a step beyond free-range, meaning the birds have had access to grass.
  • Natural — A term with one of the widest interpretations, it essentially implies no added ingredients and only minimal processing — no flavor injections or brining.

Send questions to "Since You Asked, A la carte" Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; email to

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