Buying a Turkey For Holidays? Turkey Lingo

Other / Canada


Turkeys are popping up in grocery store flyers for the holidays, but there are some differences in the types of turkey that may make paying more worthwhile.

According to the Turkey Farmers of BC:

Turkeys are graded according to quality of appearance. Canada A turkeys are well shaped, meaty with even fat covering.

Canada Utility turkeys are birds with minor skin tears or one or more parts missing which in no way affects the quality. Use these turkeys for cutting up or when carving before serving.  There is no quality or taste difference between a Canada A grade turkey or Utility grade turkey.

All turkeys processed in a federally inspected plant bear a “Canada Approved” or “Canada” health inspection stamp. This stamp tells you that the product is safe to eat.

So do check for that Canada stamp, as meat is shipped across the border.  The USDA have imposed different rulings, so US turkeys may not have the same standards based on rating.  There will be some difference in the quality and taste of meat between even Grade A turkeys depending on the age when they are slaughtered, what they are fed and how they are kept (free range vs factory etc).  Don’t forget that you can shop at FreshCo and price-match a Grade A turkey for the price of the competitor’s utility turkey if you live near a store.

As far as frozen vs fresh, for me it is always fresh because they take so long to thaw, but they say there is no difference in quality once thawed.

Frozen turkeys are flash-frozen immediately after they are packaged to 0 degrees F or less, and are kept frozen until they are purchased. Once thawed, the meat of a frozen turkey is virtually as fresh as the day it was packaged.

Fresh turkeys are chilled after packaging, rather than frozen. Because they require special handling and have a shorter shelf-life than frozen birds, fresh turkeys are often more expensive than their frozen counterparts.

Happy turkey hunting!

8 responses to “Buying a Turkey For Holidays? Turkey Lingo”

  1. Talia says:

    Thanks so much for this post! This is my first year buying a turkey and I was kind of feeling lost. In Food Basics’ flyer there is a picture of a turkey, it says “Young Turkey”, does that factor into taste at all? Also, if I was going to buy a frozen turkey is it better to buy now, will price go up as the holidays get closer?

    • C says:

      “1. Size, Sex and Age Matters – To start, you should determine your desired turkey size according to your number of dinner guests. Account for about 0.75 pounds of turkey per person, so a turkey for eight guests should weigh about 6 pounds. When it comes to deciding between a hen (female turkey) or tom (male turkey), you may consider that hens usually weigh less than 15 pounds, and toms generally weigh more than 15 pounds. But their gender makes no difference in terms of flavor, texture or tenderness. What does make a big difference is the age of the bird. Fryer or roaster turkeys, those less than four months old, are very tender. Young turkeys, from 4 to 7 months old, are quite tender too. These two types of turkeys are best for roasting. Turkeys that are about a year old, yearlings, have moderately tender skin and meat. They can still be used for roasting, and cost much less. Mature turkeys, or those above fifteen months of age, have tough meat and should not be used for roasting. According to the Reluctant Gourmet, the younger the bird, the tastier the turkey.”


      So I guess that’s your difference, but really turkeys are made and broken by the way you cook it. Youtube has LOTS of good tutorials.

      Also if you’re cooking a frozen turkey you’ll need to let it thaw in the fridge for between 2-5 days. So buy now, the price may stay the same for frozen turkeys all the way up to thanksgiving but you’re screwed if you buy one last minute. Fresh turkeys are twice or three times the price.

    • FallenPixels says:

      They may go a little lower but not much. They went down to about 0.77/lb last year but prices have increased

    • DoodlesMom says:

      A young bird will always taste better than one that’s older. The older birds tend to be tougher. Bigger, but not as tender.

  2. web3 says:

    Thanks for this article. I always assumed utility turkeys were not as good compared to A. I was wrong!

  3. Talia says:

    Thank you so much for all the info!!! Wonderful help. Very much appreciated 🙂

  4. DoodlesMom says:

    I always buy the president’s choice fresh turkeys whenever I make one. Yes they are a bit more expensive than Butterball frozen, but they use real butter for their baste. “Butterball” uses margarine. Shouldn’t it be called “Edible-Oil-Product-Ball”?

    I find they taste better too. Can’t wait for Thanksgiving 🙂

  5. kerry says:

    i just bought a small utility turkey for two.A small 8lb one for $7.50 at no fills..


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