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Turkey: Main Image

Buying Tips

Check the “Sell By” date on the package. This date indicates the last day the turkey should be offered for sale. Meat and poultry should be prepared as soon as possible after the date of purchase, and used beyond the “Sell By” date only occasionally, if at all. Fresh turkey should be odor-free and have clean skin with no pinfeathers. Frozen turkey should have a plump breast and be wrapped in an airtight package.


Turkeys are categorized by age: Fryer-roaster (under 16 weeks), young turkeys (5 to 7 months), yearling turkey (under 15 months), and mature turkey (over 15 months). They can be bought whole or in parts. White meat parts include breasts, breast steaks (cross-cut slices of breast), cutlets (thinner steaks), and tenderloins (lengthwise slices of breast). Dark meat includes thighs, drumsticks, and hindquarters. Ground turkey may contain white meat, dark meat, or both.

Turkeys are sold fresh or frozen. Self-basting turkeys contain added butter or oil. Some turkeys are sold with plastic meat thermometers embedded in the flesh that signal when the bird is sufficiently cooked.

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The information presented in the Food Guide is for informational purposes only and was created by a team of US–registered dietitians and food experts. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements, making dietary changes, or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2024.