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This Turkey Is Bulked-Up With Liquid

Prestage Turkey Breast We received a complaint from a consumer, Joan D., who had purchased a frozen turkey breast and says she got much less than she bargained for.

Upon opening the package, which weighed 6.28 pounds, she found three large gravy packets tucked in the breast cavity that weighed-one-and-one-quarter pounds. Her family commented how “puny” the cooked turkey looked — barely enough to serve everyone — weighing in at about four-and-half pounds.

cooked turkey

There was a large densely worded disclosure on the package that forewarned about what was inside the wrapper:


turkey label

Our consumer didn’t notice that “gravy packets” were included, nor that the turkey had almost 20-percent added basting broth injected into the breast.

We checked with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) about labeling regulations and the limits on added fluids to turkey products like this.

Believe it or not, there is no maximum amount of “solution” that can be injected into these birdies (see regulation) to bulk-up the weight as long as the percentage is stated in numerals on the package in a clear disclosure suggested to be in upper and lower case lettering.

There is also no requirement to list the weight of the gravy packets separately. According to an FSIS spokesperson:

For example, if the package includes a 6-pound turkey breast with added solution and 4 ounces of gravy mix in a separate packet, then the minimum total net weight required on the label is , “NET WT. 6 LB 4 OZ;” however, the label may also include the weight of the individual components as voluntary information, for example, “NET WT. 6 LB 4 OZ (turkey with up to 10% solution 6 LB, gravy packet 4 OZ)”… [Emphasis added]

In this case, where the three packets add so much weight to the product, we can certainly understand why that information if provided in advance might better inform shoppers as to what they were really getting for their money.

We asked the company how it defended its practice of including so many heavy gravy packets without making a clear disclosure of their weight on the package, and whether they would consider listing the weight of the various components separately. We also inquired as to why they didn’t follow the law and state the amount of solution as “19%” using numerals.

They responded:

We offer different options to our various retailers when it comes to our turkey breasts so that consumers may have choices to pick one of their own preference.

Some of those options include gravy packets – a single packet or multiple packets. The packaging states if the product is a turkey breast, a turkey breast with a gravy packet, or a turkey breast with gravy packets.

We operate under USDA inspection and everything we produce is approved by FSIS officials.

So what do you think? Should purchasers of this product feel hoodwinked about the presence of so many gravy packets and the amount of broth injected into the turkey breast?

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24 thoughts on “This Turkey Is Bulked-Up With Liquid”

  1. “We offer different options to our various retailers,” rather than the buyer. I doubt if all 3 versions of this car dealer scam practiced in supermarkets are all available in one store. That would be akin to finding a base model vehicle, rather than those loaded up to the hilt as the only choice. If you have access to an Amish or Mennonite grocery selling locally farmed, unadulterated, non-fouled fowl, you’re far better off paying a bit more.

  2. If I fell for this, I’d be livid at the company. The contents of this particular package was 72% turkey, and 28% “other.” When you’re shopping for a turkey it’s frequently a special occasion, and you want to have enough to feed all of your guests. Not just 72% of them.

  3. This is pretty obviously intentional on their part and I imagine this is how they’re dealing with the hike on the price of turkeys. If you look at the solution and the gravy packages they constitute a significant (almost half) of the portion of the total weight of the turkey. I don’t know why we tolerate this from turkey retailers. If someone did this to a pack of steak or fish filets people would be a lot angrier.

  4. No way would I ever buy any product bulked up w/ “added solution”; ham, turkey, beef, whatever. It is a rip off of the unknowing consumer. Caveat Emptor.

  5. I think this consumer can choose not to buy this brand again and/or start to look at the labels on the products. I would choose not to buy their products.

  6. People should absolutely know the net weight of the bird alone without all of the gravy and solution. This is just another example of something that your group knows a lot about. Downsizing. Charge the same price for less product. Turkey packers will continue to push the limits until they are stopped.

  7. I have purchased other turkey breast brands such as Butterball and the weight given is more honest. Prestage Farms is deliberately and knowingly ripping off consumers. There is no need for 3 heavy gravy packets (weighing 1 1/4 pounds) in a 6.28 pound turkey other than to mislead [edited] the buyer. Yes, I got ripped off by them and when I took turkey out of oven, there was not enough to feed my family. Turkey was mostly bone as in the photo above that shows the underside of the turkey. DO NOT purchase this brand.

  8. Well the label did say Gravy Packets….

    I wonder what percentage of Turkey Breasts are sold by the company with no packets, one packet, and multiple packets?

    I bought a Turkey breast in the past 6 months that only had one gravy packet which was nice. Never have seen one that I can recall with more than one gravy packet.

  9. Frozen chicken breasts are just as bad, although they are encased in ice (to preserve freshness, supposedly) rather than having it injected into the meat. Depending on the brand, 10% to 15% water is not uncommon.
    I understand companies needing to make a profit, but this is cheating the consumers, regardless of what government regulations say. Since when has the government been for “the people” rather than for “the corporation”? Not in a LONG time.

  10. This was the same sort of scam that launched Ralph Nader’s career. I appreciated him for his early consumer advocacy, not so much for his later political obstinacy.

  11. I buy a whole turkey from them at $ 0.69 a pound. I figure it’s a fair price, not a rock bottom price. Every time there is always 1 packet but one turkey was shipped without his packet.
    Must be the line moved to fast for the worker to stuff it in. As for the multiple packets, probably the worker had to get those packets out of the way, so the customer suffers. Yes I will continue to buy on who has the cheapest turkey.

  12. In the business world when writing, numbers zero to nine are to be spelled out. Numbers 10 and above will be written in numeric form. Maybe someone should bring that to their [edited] attention! They are obviously trying to scam the public!

  13. As you suggested in your promo for this article, the most notorious (at least up to now) example of paying meat prices for water is corned beef. I was trained as a scientist, so in the run-up to St. Patrick’s day last year I decided to do a few measurements.

    I picked out the biggest corned beef brisket in the meat case—3.88 lb with visions of leftovers dancing in my head. Then after cooking, I weighed the brisket again: 1.62 lb. After doing some elementary math (carry one, add six…), I figured that our corned beef lost about 58% of its mass to the cooking process. Wow. Erin go where?

    A bit of research on the Internet revealed that a wet-cured corned beef can reasonably be expected to retain a maximum of about 20% of its weight in brine from the cure process. According to one meat expert, anything above that must be reported under law and indicates that the packer is selling you salty water at beef prices. Our package admitted to 35% of added water, salt, sodium phosphate (a water retention agent…hmmm), sodium erythorbate (a curing agent and preservative), sodium nitrate (for that nice pink color) and papain (an old-cow tenderizing agent).

    (Of course some of that cooking weight loss might have been rendered fat, but there wasn’t a lot floating in the cooking water–I didn’t measure it.)

    Some diligent shopping did manage to find another brand of corned beef that claimed to have “only” 20% added liquid, but it sold for more than double the price per pound, which made our water-logged brisket a somewhat better buy in terms of net weight after cooking.

    Many years ago we “corned” our own beef brisket using the dry rub method espoused by Julia Child. Because there were no nitrates, it was an unappetizing gray in color, but it tasted delicious and it came out of the pot about the same size it went in.

  14. My question is: Do they weigh the bird before or after the solution is injected? The package weight should be for the turkey and just for the turkey only and nothing more. If they want to inject the bird with solution and add as many gravy packets as possible and decide to throw in a 2 lb bar bell for good measure, that shouldn’t be included with the weight.

    • Frankie… they are generally weighed at the store, not the manufacturer. So the weight you see is the total weight of everything inside the wrapper.

  15. Most producers of packaged meat (chicken, turkey, ham, etc.) products have been injecting some kind of salt brine/solution for decades (& included that info on the package). Is this the first time she has ever shopped for food? I have NO sympathy for people that DO NOT BOTHER TO READ THE LABELS & then complain that the manufacturer is trying to trick them! People read the label BEFORE you make a purchase. 🙄🥱

  16. Hey, ya’ll. In reading the comments, it is so clear that as with other items we buy, it is a “buyer beware” situation or just common sense to “read the directions”. I have gotten to a point of deciding if what I am reading seems real or is it vague, too complex, filled with words I do not understand (chemicals) or evasive. Like that. If what I am seeing looks or feels somehow altered to cater to the hurried or the unwary, I let it go. There are deals to be had if I stay open to the possibilities.

  17. I had purchased Prestage Farms turkey breast both last Thanksgiving and also the year before. Unfortunately, it was the only brand in my supermarket at the time. Both times there were 3 heavy packets of gravy. Recipes show how many pounds to buy per person. Not so with Prestage Farms! Unfortunately, after I cooked the turkey, there was very little meat on the bones. I felt robbed. The underside of the breast looked exactly like your photo- huge empty cavity. Had never seen anything like this before. Also, the added liquids are printed so small in a place that one would not read. The above occurred on both years.

    • Sandy… I would think the anatomy of a turkey breast is the same as shown no matter what brand you buy.

  18. About a month ago was the first time I purchased a Prestage Farm Turkey Breast. Thank you Edgar for all your extensive research. I have been buying turkey breasts for years & this is the first time I ever encountered this dishonesty at such a large scale. Yes, there were 3 heavy packets of gravy that were included in the weight. I spoke with manager of my supermarket & he said store weighs the turkey as it is, when it comes in. He said the store weight is accurate for whatever Prestage Farm includes. After cooking, it seemed like the turkey breast was 1/2 of the weight listed on the package. Outrageous!

  19. It appears that while the government is trying to protect the public, they inadvertently opened a backdoor companies are using to substantially ripoff consumers. How can the typical consumer get what they believe they are buying when the not so small print is still deceptive?

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