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Can smoked turkey breast deli slices be "processed" meat?

I define "processed" meat as something like hot dogs and salami where everything is ground up with spices and re-formed, as opposed to something like roast beef or pastrami. I always assumed smoked turkey breast deli slices were just a large turkey breast cured/smoked and then sliced. I read the labeling on a sliced turkey breast package today and it read "Turkey Breast (with white meat added)". The ingredients listed "Turkey Breast and Turkey White Meat ... Hydrolized Soy Protein". Two types of meat, along with MSG, leads me to believe this is a processed product. Does anyone know more about this? Also, isn't breast meat the same as white meat?

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  1. Consider that they took a processed breast and smoked it. And Why not? It's deli after ALL. Mass production.

    1. There is white meat on the thigh, the leg, the wing, and some on the back too.

      White is a color, not an anatomical part.

      1. yes, it's processed. they grind the meat with the other ingredients and compress it into that "breast" shape.

        and as gordeaux stated, you'll find white meat on other parts of the turkey - it's not limited to the breast.

        1. IMO, there are "grades" of this "stuff" (sorry, I will NOT EVER call it turkey, nor will I call it 'deli' turkey.)
          For national brands, I'd say sara lee is less processed than say oscar meyer or buddig.
          There are a few brands that seem to be less processed than others. When sara lee goes on sale at my local stores for under 4.00/lb, I will buy the low sodium version, and be happy with it for the price. I will NOT buy oscar meyer, or buddig, or any other version of that stuff that, right off the bat, is in a rectangle, or round - not even a natural shape. Um, sorry, no dice. I've had turkey before. There is no round part. There is no rectangular part. I really have a big problem with them, and places like subway being allowed to call that stuff "Turkey Breast." It is most assuredly NOT turkey breast. If you were served that stuff on Thanksgiving, you'd be appalled.

          1 Reply
          1. re: gordeaux

            yes exactly.

            Some of it is ground and caked together. Some of it is sort of smashed together bits of turkey, then there are the whole turkey breasts, some of them with all kinds of nasty stuf injected, others are more natural.

          2. interesting that you don't consider adding chemicals to meat as 'processing' too.
            it seems that you are only considering physical manipulation (grinding, forming, etc) as processing.
            under your definition, meatloaf mix would be considered to be processed but a whole turkey breast that is shot through with chemical additives would not.

            2 Replies
            1. re: westsidegal

              I would consider that to be "processed", too. I wasn't trying to give the term "processed" a complete definition, rather I was just trying to define some terms for the purposes of stating my question which specifically had to do with grinding and re-forming "deli" meats. Somehow I had gone through my life up till this point believing you could produce perfectly round turkey breast slices without grinding and re-forming. I just wanted to think about the issue one step at a time in my head.

              1. re: bmorecupcake

                don't know what you mean when you say "one step at a time,"
                but practically everything in any deli case is processed.
                more alarmingly, even some of the meat in the fresh case is somewhat processed in that it is shot through with chemicals. for the most part, the fresh case processed meat doesn't need to be labeled as such.

                also, let's say you were to get your hands on some pasture-raised, organic, completely additive-free, grass-fed beef and you decided to grind that beef up into hamburger meat. the grinding and patty formation does NOT make it processed. it doesn't matter a whit if you have it as steak or as hamburger.

                when the researchers at Harvard recently published about the dangers of processed meats relative to those of unprocessed meat they were NOT talking about the physical form of the meat as the distinguishing factor that differentiated the two.

            2. "Turkey Slime?"
              Just purchased some Jenny O deli turkey breast. In eating it noticed it did not appear to be the usual texture of turkey meat. The label indicated that it was made with desiccated turkey. Not much info on this but it appears to be some method of drying the meat and making powder, then adding all kinds of stuff back in. Looks like "turkey slime" to me. Tastes like mesquite turkey, but texture is like baloney. Do not think I will buy again. Anyone else notice this stuff?

              3 Replies
              1. re: tedanytime

                The process for poultry is the same as it is for beef...the meat is spun off the bones with a centrifuge and then shaped into your slice of sandwich meat. Mmmm.

                1. re: Samalicious

                  Yes, most deli turkey is processed into a pink slime like force meat and molded. There are some products that claim they are all natural and nothing is added. Like Boars Head All Natural and Dietz and Watson but have you ever seen a turkey breast the size of one of their products? They are still process to some degree.

                2. re: tedanytime

                  i actually called the jenny O folks when i was planning to serve turkey to a guest of mine who had impaired renal function.
                  his doctor's orders said turkey was ok for him to eat as long as it didn't contain certain chemicals (sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite, potassium somthing-or-other==i've long since lost the list).
                  i called Jenny O and asked them which of their products was pure turkey, or, at the very least products that didn't contain the forbidden chemicals.
                  they told me that NONE of their products were plain turkey and that NONE were without chemical additives.
                  obviously i decided not to serve the slime to my guest.. . .. .

                3. In a word, I don't know of any meat in a delicatessen that is NOT processed. Well, in a kosher Jewish deli, the chicken may not be processed, but the corned beef sure is. But you can also get into a big hassle by trying to define "processed" in today's world. If you do all of your shopping in the meat department of one of today's American supermarkets, there is little chance you've ever had any kind of meat that is not processed in one way or another. Any time a label on a pack of meat requires more than one word (words such as beef, pork, chicken, lamb), you're looking at processed meat. No meat comes off an animal "enhanced" with water or salt or flavorings. Yes. Deli turkey slices ARE processed meat.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: Caroline1

                    Shoprite grocery store in NJ actually roasts their own turkey breasts. Delish!

                    1. re: jklkjklkj

                      Odds are that they "brine" them in a purchased chemical solution first. Maybe not, but you owe it to yourself to find out.

                    2. re: Caroline1

                      You're really getting to the difficult issue - how do you define processed? One way to look at it is unless you purchase the live animal, you are getting processed meat. Slaughtering, butchering, packaging are certainly processing. As we've discussed on these boards before, "processed" is often used as a pejorative because it has become a shorthand for referring to something other than its actual meaning.

                      I think the more important question is what are you trying to avoid consuming? Most good delis sell simple roasted turkey and beef with nothing more than salt and pepper added. There are cured meats available that are basically only rubbed with salt, spices, and, perhaps, sugar. Others use nitrates and a smoking process. On the other hand, there are certainly meats in many a deli counter that are an amalgamation of flesh, grains, flavorings, and water, pressed and reformatted into a Frankenstinian loaf.

                      1. re: MGZ

                        "On the other hand, there are certainly meats in many a deli counter that are an amalgamation of flesh, grains, flavorings, and water, pressed and reformatted into a Frankenstinian loaf."

                        This is what I mean when saying processed deli. Corned beef will have some form of nitrate/nitrite since it's cured meat.

                        I remember see an episode of How It's Made and they showed the making of deli turkey. It was gross to see that pink toothpaste substance being extruded.

                        1. re: MGZ

                          To me, equating "slaughtering, butchering and packaging" meat to "processing" is akin to equating "picking, cleaning, and trimming" vegetables to "processing". Neither would actually be processing. It's "harvesting" in both cases, not processing. Processing has many definitions, and I think that it is widely understood that "processing" of food means to "chemically process". Like any language, using the term "processed" has become a short-hand way of saying "chemically processed". I agree that "processed" is a pejorative, but an accurate pejorative at that.

                          Most people don't consider things like baby-cut carrots in a bag to be "processed" food. However, there is a "process" to bring the carrots in from the field and cut them down to baby-sized. They're not chemically altered, though, so they don't get the label. I think that's accurate, too.

                          So, in my opinion, when I hear "processed", I think of chemicals altering the food and I think that's a fair way of looking at it. Where I live (midwest) we cannot get anything BUT processed deli meat. No whole foods found in the deli case.

                          1. re: MGZ

                            There are many types of deli turkey breast, not counting made from fresh/frozen by the deli. Which no one does around here anymore due to litagation factors. Let the customer sue Tyson or whatever.

                            Here is a good example: Perdue has 4 levels of deli turkey breast, level one being 3 or 4 whole breasts which are held together by carrageen, a natural seaweed product. The next level is big hunks of breast, the next "further processed" and then you have the fourth level which is all the trimmings formed into the shape of a breast. That is usually sold to prisons or very low income areas though, most go with what is in the middle. But you can get solid breast meat, another example is Boars Head Oven Gold which was first in the market of precooked high end turkey breast, but now every brand has something similar like the example above. You can tell by the shape, if it's more low and not round like a basketball. The biggest additive is salt I would say, although smoked now you're talking nitrates.

                            1. re: coll

                              Like gardencook and scubadoo (always liked that "name"), you help reinforce my point about the subjectivity of what the term "processed" means. Like "authentic," words with "shifting" meanings make discussions like the instant one, as well as pop culture health advice, difficult. I've occasionally tried to find a term that might help more, like, perhaps, "over processed" or "industrially processed," but none seems quite right.

                              On a more humorous note regarding the vagueness possible when different people employ their own meaning of a word, I'll share an anecdote (feel free to stop reading if you're easily bored by unsolicited, narrative prose);

                              Once, while helping prep a holiday dinner with my MIL, she inquired how my wife and I stay so "trim." Not wanting to delve too deeply into the subject, I boiled it down to the facts that we regularly exercise, avoid refined sugars and "processed" foods. In response, she happily concurred, "Oh, us too!"

                              Moments later, as I continued chopping vegetables and the bread I had baked a couple days earlier for the stuffing, she opened the freezer door. I looked over to see what she was doing and watched as she took an assortment of frozen hors d'oeuvres, the usual collection of pigs-n-blankets, mini quiches, etc., and placed them on a cookie sheet - our appetizers for the meal. I decided it was best to assume this was simply "special occasion" food and let it pass in the spirit of avoiding familial distress. Later, when I went to the freezer to get ice for a well deserved, not to mention much needed, cocktail, I decided to similarly overlook the three other boxes that remained - there are other holidays, right?

                              1. re: MGZ

                                I always enjoyed the term "further processed" that they use in all the frozen food factories, like being just plain processed wasn't enough.

                        2. My understanding is that most "smoked" deli meats are no longer actually smoked. That is to say, the flavor comes from injections of smoke flavored water or brine, rather than from the meat being suspended in a smoky environment the way it was traditionally done. Same with bacon nowadays, unless it is good (and pricey) artisanal bacon. I don't think the labeling requirements today make any distinction between actual smoking and the injection of smoke flavoring. But I don't claim to be an authority on the subject.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: eclecticsynergy

                            I know for a fact that Farmland bacon is smoked, and they're not exactly artisinal. I wouldn't be surprised if Oscar Meyer and others of that ilk take shortcuts, but companies that specialize in pork I can't see taking taking shortcuts.

                          2. You can buy a real, smoked turkey breast at a high end deli but probably 85% meets your definition of slime.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: JudiAU

                              Watching one of your History Channel ( Modern Marvels ? ) programs here one night, we saw a feature on how Turkey Breast in the United States is actually made. It answered a question I had as to the large size, and why some processed turkey breast slices have no meat fiber strands compared to those normally found when one bakes an actual Turkey in the home oven.

                              The process involves three turkey breasts are place on top of each other in a retort oven mould, and cooked to a high temperature. The result is the three merge into one breast piece, hence the large size. The meat fiber strands are lost in the retort baking process as the meat congeals. The new piece is cooled, and then packaged for slicing, as a " baked " or smoked whole new breast. The " smoking " appears to be done by injection, at least in this episode, rather than further baking or actual wood smoking.

                              This is not the same as the Turkey cooked and smoked at the Whole Foods markets, which we have seen and discussed with the WF employees when we visit the United States. I made a point in following a cart with 4 fresh Turkeys, rubbed and ready for baking, one November in California. The staff was quite proud to explained the difference.

                              Very impressed with the steps taken to avoid contamination with Turkey handling, explained in the television episode. The entire machinery A-Z is cleaned, disinfected, and inspected, and the operational part of the actual cutting and cooking with the employees is done with the floors awash in disinfectant.

                            2. You all can pontificate over the yays & nays of "deli smoked turkey breast" till Kingdom Come.

                              I, however, will continue to enjoy it. Life is too short, & frankly? I don't think mine is going to be all that shorter due to ingesting delicious premium-brand smoked turkey breast once in awhile.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Bacardi1

                                I think you misunderstood the mechanics explanation of manufacturing the product.

                                No one is saying we don't enjoy it.

                                1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                  No, I understood. It just seems that there's an underlying current that any meat product that's "processed" is somehow inferior.