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Your Frozen Turkey Was Probably 10% Water

Anyone who has cooked corned beef from a Cryovac package knows that it shrinks up to nothing after boiling. And ham often suffers the same fate. In prior stories we have explained that both corned beef and ham are often injected with up to a 35% water and salt solution. Nothing like paying meat prices for water.

Now we turn to turkeys. At least in Boston, turkeys were offered at a giveaway price this year — 39 cents a pound — at a number of major chains. And at least one store did not require a $25 minimum purchase to snare one at that crazy low price. To MrConsumer’s surprise, however, all the 39-cent turkeys had been bulked up with “solution,” like a body builder on steroids.


Turkeys injected with solution

Various brands checked had all been injected with 9.5 percent water, salt, sugar, and flavoring. This is really nothing new, but it just wasn’t as obvious before (including to MrConsumer). Why? There was a change in USDA labeling rules as of 2018 that makes the presence of solution hard to miss. Now the added water weight must be disclosed in type at least 1/3 the size of the name of the product.

Why is solution even there to start with? Certainly there are sensory benefits to having turkeys pre-basted to make them more moist. And no doubt the companies make extra money by fattening up the birds with water.

Thank goodness it is only 9.5%, and not 35% as with other meats.

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6 thoughts on “Your Frozen Turkey Was Probably 10% Water”

  1. Hannafords checked in at 39 cents and 9.5%. This – at least to me – is old news since adding “solutions” has long been noted. That said – turkey is an amazing bargain even when you strip away the fat and bones.

  2. To me this was not really old news. My problem is I do not want sodium added to my poultry. I must restrict sodium as a health concern to a family member and too much salt can be dire. To try to counteract this I try to keep rinsing and soaking my chickens before I prepare them for roasting to try to rinse the salt out. It is an added chore that I hate and then I must decontaminate the sink with amnonia and then bleach. This is not even counting the added expense of being charged for weight that isn’t there.

  3. Our 21+ pound Thanksgiving turkey seemed to contain an awful lot of “juice” as I could have made enough gravy for four turkeys, but what bugs our family is the packet of organs in each bird. Apparently it’s not feasible to include a fitting neck or appropriate sized liver for the turkey, but now each bird is missing one of the parts. Gizzards are tasty for my family (and especially for the cats), but now I can’t count on having enough to serve with something always not included.

    Also, the practice in the last few years is to include a gravy packet with each bird. Since I make my own (or suffer family scorn!), I have no use for it, but this year’s was about double sized, and I think they counted it in the weight. Do they weigh the bird before or after “enhancing”?

    Edgar replies: Marjie, you are paying for everything under the outer wrapper.

  4. While I think that $.39 is an amazing price for a turkey and, considering I paid $.89/lb this year, I could buy a turkey up to 50% water and still break even, I do think this sets a dangerous precedent. Especially when you factor in what Mary was talking about, how you’re paying $.39/lb for that gravy and other things put into the bird as well. I’ll be looking for this label change on the turkey in my freezer.

  5. Like Nancy said, I too am on a salt restricted diet. It is becoming harder and harder to buy food at the grocery stores since they all contain too much sodium. Locally almost all chicken sold is enhanced. I almost need to go right to the farm to get a non-enhanced or sodium injected chicken or turkey. lucky for me there are a few farmers markets where I can order them in special if I can not find one. This is only getting worse. As much as I hate to say it, it might be soon time to required law prohibiting it in the future.

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