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Let’s Talk Turkey: Decoding the Label on Your Bird

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Labels on turkeys can be confusing! It’s difficult to sort the certifications and claims that are superfluous from the ones that actually mean something. Fortunately, EWG can help you find the facts. Check out our Label Decoder for meat, eggs and milk to help you make better and more informed choices.

Most turkeys raised and sold in the U.S. are:

  • Bred for abnormally large, white turkey breasts
  • Raised in cramped and crowded conditions
  • Likely treated with antibiotics and growth-boosting hormones
  • Possibly injected with saline/brine, oils, flavors or preservatives

For a better alternative, look for one or more of these labels:

Animal Welfare Approved

  • Raised with continuous access to an outdoor pasture
  • No feedlots
  • No antibiotics given to healthy animals
  • Painful physical alterations to the animals are prohibited
  • Slaughter facilities are audited

Certified Humane

  • Animals cannot be confined in cages or crates, and there is a minimum amount of space per animal
  • No antibiotics given to healthy animals
  • Slaughter facilities are audited

USDA Organic

  • Animals must have year-round access to the outdoors, including direct sunlight and fresh air
  • Pastures are managed to maximize soil fertility
  • Animals are fed certified organic feed only
  • GMO feed is prohibited

Global Animal Partnership

*Note that this is a five-step program. EWG recommends you look for products marked “Step 3” or above.

  • Steps 4+ are raised outside on pasture, and Step 3 requires some outdoor access
  • Cages, crates and crowding are prohibited
  • No antibiotics given to healthy animals
  • Detailed standards to minimize painful physical alterations to the animals

Don’t bother with these labels:

Free Range

  • The USDA defines free range as “allowed access to the outside” but does not specify the quality of the range, or quantity of time
  • There are no regular on-farm inspections to verify this claim

Humanely Raised

  • There is no legal definition for this term, so it is essentially meaningless

Natural

  • Does not mean the animal was raised in sufficient open space
  • Does not bar growth hormones
  • Does not bar GMO feed or require organic feed
  • Does not indicate that the producer didn’t treat healthy animals with antibiotics.
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