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BUTTERBALL TOM OR HEN? [Moved from Home Cooking board]

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Local grocery is offering a turkey choice. Is there any difference in taste ? Would i notice the difference in the finished product? I will be looking for a 16 to 20 lb bird.

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  1. anything as long as it's not a butterball!!! do you really want your food injected with a bunch of stuff that you're not supervising? i don't know where you're located, but i'd be willing to bet you can find a local farm selling turkeys. You'll probably have to add a bit more butter to it during the cooking process, but that's the fun part, right? As far as the sex of the bird, i've actually never been offered a choice, so I can't speak to that part of the question.

    15 Replies
    1. re: tacostacoseverywhere

      Actually, Butterballs are getting more recommendations these days (Cooks Illustrated seems have gotten religion on this point) over fresh turkeys (including brined ones) for both texture and flavor. Who'd have thunk it? Apparently, they've also changed their process too.

      1. re: Karl S

        I had switched to buying fresh killed for awhile, but the price eventually brought me back to the grocery store turkeys during the holidays, and I don't notice that much difference, especially on Thanksgiving when everyone is just "gobbling" their food anyway! My guests never mentioned noticing either after I switched back, all I got were the usual compliments.
        Hens are smaller, toms are bigger, no difference otherwise. So just go by how many lbs you want.

        1. re: Karl S

          I noticed the Butterball recommendation by Cooks too and was surprised. I think that it has as much to do with improvement in quality as much as the fact that our tastes have changed over the years. One year, I cooked a heritage turkey and spent quite bit of money and time on it. While I proudly enjoyed my Thanksgiving dinner with a few guests who did really appreciate it, most of my family groused that the "white meat is not really white" and that the bird tasted "gamey". Sometimes you just need to throw in the towel on these things, especially around the holidays. Don't fall into the trap of being a food snob. I got nailed on that occasion.

          I love cooking the 15 to 16 lb. size bird. Toms are supposedly a bit bigger, but I don't think it is a hard and fast rule. I have never found a difference between a tom and a hen because I think these things are raised so quickly that gender differences don't seem to matter. I don't think they get anywhere near maturity, so the hormone differences are not visible to me, nor can I taste the difference. The smaller bird cooks more evenly, and it seems like the bigger bird is more likely to dry out. That may explain why some people think that the Tom is likely to be "stringy". The breasts on the smaller bird are only slightly different in size, but go with the bigger one and cook it more slowly if you are having a big crowd or want a lot of white meat leftovers. As a dark meat person, I really don't notice too much of a difference in the size of the legs and drumsticks.

          Oh, and one more thing -- turkey breasts are the same size on males and females on birds of the same size. They are not mammals, but some people erroneously think that a hen would have a bigger breast. I mentioned this just in case you are getting this misguided advice!

          1. re: RGC1982

            Well, for high quality eats, I'd choose a capon for the holiday. But a capon does not taste like a turkey - for all the supposed blanding down of the mass market turkey, it still has a distinctive (if no longer gamey) flavor profile. Or maybe I am among the minority who can tell the difference in flavor even between sliced chicken breast and sliced turkey breast. (Mind you, I am a dark meat man - courtesy of the fact that, as the 5th of 6 kids, I was at the bottom of the pole in choosing my cut of meat for Thanksgiving (the youngest came first after the parents, then the first four in rank order).

            It's been decades since people have readily had old-fashioned turkeys in the supermarket, so I don't think the dumbing down of our tongues factored into Cooks' rankings - I suspect Butterball has improved its birds a bit. In any event, I can recall the rapturous taste tests of various types of natural turkeys a decade ago, and they have declined as demand has increased, it seems. Too much of a good thing is not always good. That's why I no longer feel there's any particular great good that comes from any particular type of non-standard turkey anymore.

            1. re: Karl S

              I couldn't agree more that turkey just isn't special anymore and there are many things that we'd prefer if it weren't for the ceremonial aspects of that Big Gobbler on Thanksgiving Day. I am just as likely to roast or smoke a turkey at some other time of the year for a crowd or cook turkey thighs or a breast for an economical meal.

              Butterball is a special breed of bird and it's not named for any injection method. There are many products marketed under the Butterball brand name. The specific turkey is bred for its broad, large breast which might have meant that your family would have had more white meat to go around. That's the point - more Americans choose white meat over dark which makes these birds popular. Any "flavor injection" is a marketing extra for jittery cooks.

              All turkeys have improved on recent years as breeding methods have become more consistent. Some people might complain about the standardized diets that poultry are raised on but they are calibrated to raise healthy, disease-free birds at economical prices. Turkeys in markets are dependably good and consumers can rely on them.

              The biggest variable remains the skill of the cook. I've had expensive "gourmet" specialty turkeys that tasted like sawdust and supermarket bargain birds that gave me something to be truly thankful for.

        2. re: tacostacoseverywhere

          Nothing wrong with a Butterball. And for some people, there's everything RIGHT with it.
          It's pretty foolproof for first-timers who have the whole family coming and can't afford to screw up. They can stick it in the oven and not worry about brining, basting, whether to add more butter or even whether they should add butter.

          As Coll says, most people don't notice all the trouble the cook goes through to drive all over the place and obsess over a stupid bird. It's gobble, gobble as long as you have good side dishes and everybody has fun. Concentrate on those and be done with it.

          The only thing you worry about is the size. I always buy the biggest one that fits in my oven so I can send everyone home with enough for turkey sandwiches the next day.
          Nobody ever refuses because it was a Butterball. Nobody has ever even asked.

          1. re: MakingSense

            To clarify, I don't buy from a local farmer so my guests will ooh and aah over the taste (though 2 guests did comment on the unusually good taste without prompting last year, saying that it "tasted better than usual" or something like that). I buy it from him because I try to make as many of my food purchases as possible from local sources instead of Big Agriculture. I also don't like additives in my food and don't like the chemicals and flavorings they pump into commercially processed birds, nor how they are raised. there are a lot of reasons to buy a turkey from your area farmer instead of one from the grocery store, it has very little to do with whether or not the guests notice.

            1. re: rockandroller1

              In general, that's a good philosophy, but one day a year when you're having 20 or 30 guests and still way too much food , I say go with ease and price.
              And I think the "additives and chemicals" you're talking about are water and salt, the same as homemade brine in the end. So if you have the time and money, I envy you, but for me, it's more about the company and less about the food being Martha Stewart-like on this particular holiday. If someone is already planning on buying their turkey at the grocery store, I wouldn't try to talk them out of it myself, is all I'm saying, very few people even attempt the big shebang as it is!

              1. re: coll

                Turkeys involves all sorts of compromises - obvious and hidden - for anyone who is not raising and killing their own. Not worth sweating over what are relatively minor details in this context; do what works for you.

                1. re: coll

                  I understand. I only wished to explain my motives. My holidays are about family, not being Martha Stewart, and I feel my family deserves a clean bird that was raised on food that birds are supposed to eat, and that my money should go to a local farmer. The large poultry processors put flavor enhancers in their birds, it's not just water and salt. I don't eat those during the year, and a special occasion meal when I'm serving other people, to me, is an even better time not to serve something like this. It's not about being martha stewart, it's what I feel is good quality food.

                  As long as you are happy with what you're buying and enjoy preparing and serving it, it doesn't matter what it is. I only wanted to explain my reasons since you seemed to think it was about "taste" and that's not why.

                2. re: rockandroller1

                  Hear, Hear, rockandroller!!!

                  1. re: rockandroller1

                    believe me, i don't care particularly whether my guests notice it's local; quite the contrary. i want them to notice that it tastes good, and in my book, "local-ness", so to speak, helps in that regard. i also want to remark that i originally made the point that i, too, don't like additives in my food (esp. when i don't know what they are). basically, rnr1 made my point all over again, which is less about the self-congratulatory aspects of eating locally (of which there are plenty) and more about having a better idea of what you're putting in a pan, and, following that, your mouth and those of your guests. furthermore, those additives are not "just water and salt." i believe that rnr1's point and mine have as much to do with what the bird is fed during its lifetime as what is injected into it. do yourself a favor and read just the first chapter of "Omnivore's Dilemma." Though he's talking about beef, not turkey, I don't think the leap is a hard one to make.
                    Finally, brining a turkey isn't that time consuming... any more than cooking one is. aren't we all on this board because we care about what we eat? i can't close my point any better than rnr1 already did, so i'll kindly refer to his closing statement.

                    1. re: tacostacoseverywhere

                      "The leap" from beef to turkey isn't "a hard one to make" if someone wants to jump to a lot of possibly invalid conclusions after reading Omnivore's Dilemma. It is an interesting book with a selection of good data and a lot of thoughtful opinion from an excellent writer. But you can't extrapolate conclusions about the poultry business from information about the cattle industry. Do yourself a favor and read some simple animal husbandry books on how livestock is raised instead of political polemics. You are making incorrect assumptions that all birds that are not like the one you personally choose from a local farmer are somehow adulterated and inferior. That is simply incorrect.

                      "Anything as long as it's not a butterball!!!" is the way YOU led off your first comment, as you urged that the OP do as YOU do by finding a local farmer to buy a turkey from. Most Americans will buy turkeys of which you don't approve. Sorry about that.
                      But I'm not about to tell others that the supermarket turkey, Butterball or not, is a poor choice for their Thanksgiving meal and that they should, in some way, be ashamed of that choice because you have decided it is not "quality."

                      1. re: MakingSense

                        ok, ok, i give. fair enough. in my defense, i honestly wasn't trying to shame others into getting away from supermarket birds, merely stating an opinion on why buying local is better imho. apologies to all i may have offended. i guess i'm more after the "naked" birds Sense is talking about in the post i responded to further down. ie, don't buy stuff that other people have doctored for you, even if it's not with "scary" chemicals. after all, as i also stated in my OP, isn't that part of the fun of cooking-- to take something that needs help to taste good, and give it that help? and, as i noted below, aren't we all on this board because we aren't of the McDonald's four times a week ilk? Perhaps I'm jumping to conclusions again, but hey. Last time I'm posting on this topic, I promise.
                        incidentally, i have read quite a few books on animal husbandry... and while my earlier "leap" from Pollan wasn't analagous, I maintain that the standards of food supply that are permitted for industrial poultry are NOT what i'd like to put in my body if i can avoid it. see http://www.fda.gov/cvm/animalfeed_inf... I realize that that, too, puts me in a distinct minority. so be it.

                        1. re: tacostacoseverywhere

                          I tend to agree with your preference for a "naked", unadulterated bird. It gives the cook a lot more to say about the outcome. I have to say, though, that I've given up on cooking a turkey carcass in the oven, or in my parents old roaster, or in a bag. It took a lot of swallowing of pride before I tried the ole "deep fried" turkey, and am I glad I did. I always looked down my nose at the notion of deep frying. Now, I look forward to it every year. I make my own injectable marinade and dry rubs, which can be just as challenging as any culinary expertise involved in the old, and in my opinion, unsatisfying manner of roasting the whole turkey. I deep fry two breasts with different injectable marinades, 4 drumsticks, and 4 thighs. And, for the first time since I was a kid, I actually appreciate the flavor. The frying makes a moist bird, and the frying imparts no greasiness to the meat, as I had expected might occur before I gave it a try. Just like frying anything else, I get the peanut oil up to 375 degrees, and carefully adjust the flame when I lower the basket in. It's really great.

              2. I have to agree with the other poster. Why would you want a Butterball? They are injected with growth hormones to make the bigger than they naturally should be, are not fed a clean and healthy diet and are injected with artificial flavorings and chemicals before they're wrapped.

                If you really want to taste the difference in a bird, don't buy one from the grocery store, buy one from a butcher shop who obtains them from a local farmer.

                2 Replies
                1. re: rockandroller1

                  Or better yet, go right to the farmer. www.localharvest.org has a great listing.

                  1. re: rockandroller1

                    There may be other reasons to buy poultry from a local farmer but misconceptions about hormone use is not one of them. The use of hormones in poultry is illegal.
                    http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/poulsci...
                    All poultry in the US is "hormone-free.".

                  2. To address the question you actually did ask, rather than one you didn't:
                    The chief difference between tom and hen is size; toms grow bigger. Differences in flavor, texture or white/dark proportions are minimal, and probably undetectable for most people (myself included). In the 16-20 lb range, you may have a choice, some hens do get that big, but you're more likely to find a tom that meets your size criterion.

                    1. I think Toms are stringy. I always get a hen. The ones I get are not marked and I'm told the hens are 14 lbs or less. I've tried the ones from Whole Foods but, ok, shoot me, I prefer the taste of the Butterball.

                      1. So does anyone have a running opnion on commerically raised versus "freerange" turkeys? Or are people just looking for the least handled bird?

                        18 Replies
                        1. re: MIss G

                          I used to work at a turkey processing plant, and there was never anything like injecting
                          stuff in the turkey`s. I think they are making to much out of all this. the hens are smaller
                          and a little more tender than the tom`s but not that much. My advice to you is just buy
                          a bird that fits the size of meat that takes to feed the crowd you will be having. myself
                          I usually buy a tom, so I can have alot of leftovers, for frozen dinners and sandwiches for later use. sometimes when there is only going to be4-6 people there I will buy a
                          32 lb turkey to take care of the leftovers. and I just kick everybody out of the kitchen
                          and tell them not to come back until I call them. I love to fix the whole holiday dinner.

                          1. re: bigjimbray

                            Oh, and the turkeys aren't injected while they're alive. they're injected at plants such as butterball. Here's something I found online:

                            Thank you for contacting the Butterball Turkey Talk Line by email.

                            When there are dietary concerns, we advise purchasing Butterball Fresh Turkey and Butterball Fresh Breast of Turkey, which are all-natural and contain no added ingredients. The breast meat of Butterball Frozen Turkeys, including Butterball Frozen Stuffed Turkey, is deep basted with a patented recipe of ingredients to yield a more uniformly juicy and tender turkey after cooking. Individual ingredients (water, salt, sodium phosphate to retain natural juices, modified food starch [corn or potato source], dextrose and natural flavors -- no allergenic ingredients) are specified on the labels of all Butterball Frozen Turkeys and Butterball frozen line extension products. (Although wheat and rye gluten-free, the recipe does include 0.5 ppm corn protein.)

                            Honeysuckle: Thank you for contacting Honeysuckle White.

                            Our fresh and frozen whole turkeys are injected with a basting solution
                            that contains turkey broth (turkey juice and water), salt, sodium
                            phosphate, sugar and a natural flavoring that is an allergen free, non-dairy
                            butter flavoring.

                            **
                            JMO, but I don't want a bird that's injected with sugar, corn protein, sodium phosphate, etc. And why "salt" and then "sodium?" Aren't they the same thing? This is why I buy fresh, among other reasons.

                            1. re: rockandroller1

                              Sorry to jump in here again! I'm no way a scientific type person, but I believe sodium phosphate is more a phosphate than sodium: it's the main part of baking powder which helps ingredients rise, and for basically the same reason they put in "processed" meats to keep it plump. It helps the meat hold it's moisture until you cook it. An added bonus is that its a natural preservative and helps retard baterial growth. Although I think dextrose IS another form of salt. But all are naturally occuring elements as far as I know.

                              Now if you've ever eaten fresh potatoes or corn, then you've eaten corn or potato starch. Nothing scary there.

                              I've never brined a turkey myself, but I believe the standard recipe is salt, water and sugar? So that explains the sugar

                              Anyway, I think it's great that you want a special turkey for your holiday. I can totally understand that. But I wouldn't worry so much about the short lives of chickens and turkeys, unfortunately for them they were born to grow up very quickly and be food for us, and we should give thanks for this economical protein however we obtain it.

                              PS There's a couple of small local egg farms down the road from us; at one the chickens do roam around (have to watch out driving by there!) and the other they're pretty much in their caged enclosures all day. They seem equally content as far as I can see. Occaisonally they'll put out a sign for stew hens when the population gets out of hand. Very occasionally. But I've been to the Tyson factory too, seen how they do it, and all I know is, if you and everyone else wants chicken when you want it, it has to be mass produced. Ditto for turkey for Thanksgiving. So to each his own, God bless America!

                              1. re: coll

                                yes, the starch helps maintain the viscosity of the liquid. NOthing in this injection is terribly different than what people do when they brine with multiple ingredients. And injection is not exactly unknown at home - lots of people injected flavored liquids into their turkeys.

                                One could even argue that, by having that done in a controlled setting, the results are more likely to by hygenic than when people do it at home.

                                Which is why I noted how turkeys always involve some sort of compromise - obvious or hidden. It's the hidden compromises, of course, that people are blind to.

                                1. re: coll

                                  Dextrose is another form of sugar, most typically from corn in the US. Being allergic to corn and its derivatives, and the USDA not requiring the same labeling laws as the FDA does for other food stuff, there is plenty scary with processed turkeys and with most processed meats for me. I don't have a choice, I have to find a pure turkey that hasn't been tampered with before hand, which isn't easy on a budget. I was planning on just cooking a chicken until my sister decided to come to my house too. I checked a lot of places, but only the very last place, a local owned farm stand with real butchers, had plain, unadulterated, fresh turkeys for $1.09/lb...too bad the smallest they had was 21 #'s-lol.

                                  Yes my turkey will soon be soaking in a brine of my own creation, made from either canning salt or Kosher salt, as regular iodized table salt also has corn dextrose added to stabilize the iodine, so that's out. I have to know every ingredient in everything I eat, which means I pretty much have to make everything myself from as pure & basic ingredients as I can find. People would eat a lot differently if they really had to read the ingredient labels on everything and really understand what each and every ingredient is and how it is created. And not just the actual ingredients, but also any ingredients used in processing that currently are not required to be listed.

                                2. re: rockandroller1

                                  There are many turkeys available at supermarkets that are NOT injected with anything. They are just as PLAIN as the turkey that you are buying at the farm that you are fortunate enough to be able to drive to. They are sold fresh near the holidays, as well as frozen. These are not "trademarked" turkeys like Butterball but are natural, hormone-free, good quality turkeys.
                                  Plain turkeys are an excellent value because consumers are not paying for the weight of the liquid that was injected. For those who want to use their own flavored brines, this is the type of turkey they should buy anyway.

                                  Most of these turkeys are raised by small producers - small farmers - who earn their livings on family farms, not huge factory farms. They sell their turkeys to brokers or back to contract companies, rather than directly to consumers such as you. The turkeys are processed, under inspected and regulated conditions , according to state and federal laws. Those small farms are local - in their own communities - preserving farmland and keeping jobs and money in their own regions, often supporting other seasonal agricultural enterprises besides the poultry operations.

                                  The vast, vast majority of Americans will buy their holiday turkeys as supermarkets. They don't know Mr. Greenjeans and have neither the time, means, not inclination for a trip to a farm.
                                  One supermarket in my city has them advertised this week for 49 cents a pound. If someone has freezer space, this is hard to beat. Why should anyone discourage a working family from buying this turkey?
                                  Certainly not by giving them misleading information or disparaging their choices.

                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                    Not in my grocery there aren't. We have butterballs, honeysuckle whites and perdues and that's about it.

                                    1. re: rockandroller1

                                      Bad news!!! In the Safeway today, the Manor House turkeys on sale were injected with "stuff." Up to 8% of the same sort of solution that is used on the name brand turkeys. There goes the neighborhood!

                                      The store brand generic turkeys were the last place to get plain turkeys at a reasonable price without having to go to the more expensive poultry markets. That's OK for many of us but for people on a limited budget, this means no more bargain turkeys. Turkey parts aren't injected with crap, just whole turkeys, but parts are more expensive and they really won't do as the centerpiece of a Thanksgiving celebration. Drat!

                              2. re: MIss G

                                A lot of people misconstrue what "free range" means. Here's an excerpt from an interview with michael pollan of "omnivore's dilemma" explaining the condition as he saw it through visiting a farm that advertises free range:

                                "It’s very interesting. Free-range chickens—I did go visit a large organic chicken producer here in California, and if you look at their label, there’s a farmstead with a little silo and a farm house and a farmyard and chickens running around, but if you go to the farm, the chickens are grown in these huge barracks as long as a football field. They’re indoors, there are 20,000 of them in a house, and running along this barrack is what looks like a little front lawn—mowed, maybe 15 or 20 feet deep.

                                There’s a little door at either side of the barrack where, theoretically, chickens could step outside and take the air. But they don’t. One reason is that the doors are closed until the chickens are about five weeks old.

                                The farmers—if you can use that word, the managers—are concerned that the chickens might catch their death of cold or pick up a germ, so they don’t open the doors until the chickens are five weeks old. They smother them at seven weeks; so it’s not exactly a lifestyle. It’s more like a two-week vacation option. And the chickens don’t avail themselves of this option because they’ve never been outside before. They’re terrified of going outside. First of all, it’s not big enough for the whole flock. Second of all, the food and water is inside; they’re not used to it; they weren’t brought up this way. They’re like the cat in the Manhattan apartment; when you open the door they just stand there in terror wondering about the other dimension of reality outside that door.

                                Free range is a conceit. It’s to make us feel better about these chickens. It’s not doing anything for the chickens, as far as I can tell.

                                Yes, that organic chicken is still a better product, I think. It’s getting better feed, it’s got a few more inches of legroom than a conventional chicken, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be."

                                1. re: rockandroller1

                                  Interesting. I think Pollan's description would also apply to the chickens I've been getting through our co-op; the supplier's website states that the chickens are "raised cage-free on the ground in large temperature-controlled buildings, but have the opportunity to go outside should they choose." I wonder how often they choose to go? These chickens are more tender and have more flavor than a supermarket chicken, for whatever reason--and they are smaller, too.

                                  I am getting a turkey from this supplier this year, and I'm slightly anxious about cooking it because I'm so used to supermarket birds and have never had one turn out badly, but I'm not sure how this turkey will be different.

                                  1. re: zorra

                                    I think birds like those you describe are a step away from factory farming but still aren't what are best to buy if you want to buy birds that are as close to naturally raised as possible. They're better, for sure. I think they're smaller because the factory farmed birds are fed more and processed a little older so they will be overly large, which is what America likes.

                                    I took the step away that you took awhile ago, buying things like Bell & Evans or chick from whole foods. I took a step further about a year ago to start buying chicken from actual farmers or people who sell products from a farmer. If you question the guy selling it to you as to where the birds are raised and he doesn't know, that's a clue. If he raises them himself and can describe how they are pastured and what they are fed, ding ding ding, you've got a good chick vendor. I found folks like this at my local farmer's market.

                                    I'm sure your bird from the vendor you describe will be tasty and good, don't sweat it.

                                    1. re: rockandroller1

                                      Chickens available in markets vary because the breeds of chickens themselves vary.
                                      Larger farmers who raise poultry under contract for "branded" poultry like Perdue, Tysons, Butterball, etc. receive special chicks directly from the companies, which have been bred to yield uniform finished grown chickens at a specific age. The contract specifies what they will be fed and the farmers often buy their feed mix from the company; the feed mix is developed to promote certain taste and nutrition profiles in the meat, as well as a growth pattern. Perdue introduces a special feed in the last stages to yield their "trademark" yellow skin color.
                                      The breeds used by these companies have been developed to yield the large chickens available in supermarkets, as well as the "parts" which make up the most profitable segment of the American retail poultry market. Small chickens don't have the large boneless, skinless breasts that sell so well in the US.

                                      Small farmers buy chicks from commercial suppliers or hatch their own. There are breeds valued for their laying ability not for their flavor and others that taste great that don't lay well. Good producers of poultry products know the difference. Many of these breeds are smaller, have great flavor and are well worth seeking out. They are usually available at specialty poultry and farmers' markets.
                                      Beyond that, chickens are also not particularly bright and benefit by some guidance in their dietary choices. Chickens shouldn't be just an afterthought for small farmers. Consumers should seek vendors at farmers' markets who did more than just wring a bird's neck in the barnyard.

                                  2. re: rockandroller1

                                    Exactly. Free range is a complete joke to get money out of the naive. Just as you posted, the football size warehouses open a door for about an hour a day, and then they can call the bird "free range". I blame the regulators for this. The USDA is not a friend to the consumers. In a taste test that was published in the Denver Post (maybe taken from the Cook taste test that folks are mentioning), the butterball came in first place, the organic "free range" bird came in last place. I worked with hunters who would go turkey hunting once a year, and they would put that bird on the table at thanksgiving. They claim it is a tasty bird that is easier to cook as the breast is quite a bit smaller and gets done at the same time as the legs, thights, and wings. I'd sure like to try one of those someday, if for no other reason than curiosity sake.

                                    That's not to say I would buy a Butterball, as I deep fry my turkeys.

                                    1. re: rockandroller1

                                      When I can get fresh eggs from the Farmer's market, I can tell you that there is USUALLY a substantial improvement in flavor over eggs in the supermarket, labeld free-range or otherwise.

                                      1. re: Steve

                                        The feed for laying hens (eggs found at the supermarket), has changed over the last several years because of cholesterol issues. I suspect it has changed the flavor of the eggs. It's like so many things that I grew up with in the '50s and '60s, that no longer taste like I remembered them. For instance, a Coke doesn't taste anything like the Cokes I used to get when I was a kid. Instead of sweetening them with sugar, they have switched to corn syrup. However, I've recently solved that dillema. Costco now sells CocaCola, made in Mexico where they still use sugar. And, they come in a glass bottle!

                                        1. re: dhedges53

                                          Producers can change the flavor or color of a yolk or the entire egg by adjusting the feed mix. They can even make Seuss-ian Green Eggs to go with your Ham. When we lived in South America, we knew which eggs to avoid because they tasted fishy - that farmer fed his chickens fish meal. You are what you eat!
                                          Total barnyard chickens, allowed to scratch wherever they choose, often don't produce wonderful eggs because they can be pretty gamey depending on the chicken's choice of food. Most good farm eggs are from farmers who maintain some control over their flock's diet.

                                        2. re: Steve

                                          Eggs at a farmers' market are substantially fresher than any egg that you will ever get in any supermarket. The farmer takes his straight to market. The distribution chains for supermarkets means that the eggs may be weeks from the nest to your basket, no matter where you buy them.

                                          1. re: MakingSense

                                            Many eggs reach stores only a few days after the hen lays them. Egg cartons with the USDA grade shield on them must display the "pack date" (the day that the eggs were washed, graded, and placed in the carton). The number is a three-digit code that represents the consecutive day of the year (the "Julian Date") starting with January 1 as 001 and ending with December 31 as 365. When a "sell-by" date appears on a carton bearing the USDA grade shield, the code date may not exceed 45 days from the date of pack.

                                    2. Lets see, even if I could get an organic pastured turkey (which apparently are not raised in this state) it would cost me a minimum of $40 dollars (10 lbs - frozen). Some of the "better"(?) are as much as $135. Not that I would know which is which necessarily the better pick. I can go to foodland or Safeway a few days before Thanksgiving and for the $20 - $30 range get a 16 or 18 pound bird. Hummm...... I think Butterball sounds just fine for my needs. Hats off to those of you who are going the extra (3,000) miles.

                                      1. Last Thanksgiving, my father called me from our butcher and said they were having freah amish turkey breasts for .99 a pound. Great! Sign me up! That also led to 2 other family members ordering turkeys. The day before Thanksgiving, I went to pick up my bird and my father was completely wrong...it was THREE NINTY NINE A POUND!!! I had a 60 turkey breast on my hands.

                                        I brined (thanks Alton), I roasted and to be honest, it didnt taste a damn bit different than my usual Butterball. However, on Saturday afternoon, I came in to find the dishwasher running and the fridge empty. My father threw all the leftovers out, including that effin 60 turkey because he wanted to "help" Long live the Butterball!

                                        1. I LOVE a fresh turkey. Is is a little $$ but we only get it for thanksgiving.

                                          1. A good rule of thumb is a turkey weighing 13 pounds and under is a hen. Much more tender than a 20lb. tom.