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My DH won't buy a Trader Joe's fresh turkey. Please discuss!

I know this subject has been beaten like the proverbial dead horse (turkey?) but I want chowhound yays/nays and input. specific to this issue.

DH feels that birds slaughtered WEEKS before the 'use by' dates are bacteria and quality time bombs.

Perusing past chowhound threads assures me that TJs birds are pre-brined (or kosher dry brined) and kept at cooler temps so both help safely conserve the bird. Besides, they wouldn't sell and the lawyers would be very happy if there were truly a problem. I have only seen ONE chow bad bird post.

He is OK with a frozen supermarket free bird....he spatchkocks it and smokes it. We're not having a huge group so size isn't an issue.

THANKS for all replies!

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  1. The definition of 'fresh' and other questions answered: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/P...

    It sounds that he just doesn't want to purchase a bird. Many discussions on CH going on with most stating it is all in the preparation. Does the free, frozen, spatchcocked, smoked bird taste good? Go with it.

    1. In my experience, all of the meat I have bought from TJ's was about to go bad. However in general, meat is sealed in plastic and shipped to retailers, who then butcher it. Not sure how long they are kept like this, but it definitely prolongs the "use by" date.

      1. Supermarket fresh turkeys are slaughtered two weeks before Thanksgiving. In the past it was three weeks.

        You husband is correct in a sense. The frozen bird is fresher. It is frozen shortly after slaughter.

        Unless you buy a fresh turkey from a local farm that says when the bird is done in, that is just the way it is.

        1 Reply
        1. re: rworange

          Personally, I've always preferred a fresh turkey to a frozen bird precisely because it had had some time to "cure". I long for the days in the 70s when you could get a genuinely fresh turkey that had not been taken to 1˚ above frozen.

          I promise you they were infinitely superior in flavor and no one ever dropped dead eating them.

        2. Can't tell you anything about TJ's birds, but fresh turkeys have been available for Thanksgiving for several decades (and maybe before that) and I've never heard about anyone getting sick from one.

          1. Thanks guys.

            Cathy, I sent him the link. He pointed out:

            "Is there an increased microbiological safety risk associated with raw poultry that is maintained at 26 °F?
            No. The National Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Criteria for Foods, as well as several scientific organizations, agreed that there is no increased microbiological risk associated with raw product maintained at 40 °F or below. " ===> DH asked - for how long? He doesn't agree with the 'use by' date.

            He also cut/pasted this snippet: "At home, immediately place fresh raw poultry in a refrigerator that maintains 40 °F or below and use it within 1 to 2 days"


            We'll probably go with the frozen bird because he wants CHEAP. And he does prepare a very, very good turkey.

            5 Replies
            1. re: leetmom7

              Bet he's a guy who won't eat cookie dough or ice cream with uncooked eggs too. Some people are like that... ;>

              1. re: rainey

                Or Caesar Salad with egg yolk, or egg nog...sigh...
                Its interesting...I dry age our annual standing rib roast uncovered in our basement fridge for a good week. Its in a fridge where we don't open the door much at all, as in once every few days for a couple of seconds. I know its beef, but still. Now, one butcher I use says you're going to DIE. Cooks magazine says its OK. Sometimes its easier to err on the side of OCD bug phobia. But next time you go to the movies, ask him what the thinks is on the movie seat, and if he washed his hands with the proper technique before he makes dinner...sigh

              2. re: leetmom7

                I can identify with preferring the cheaper option. I may not think the Trader Joe's fresh turkeys are "bacteria and quality time bombs", but I tend to assume that any difference in quality probably isn't worth the price difference.

                1. re: leetmom7

                  If he makes a very, very good turkey without spending a small fortune on a turkey, why exactly do you want a "fresh" bird?

                  1. re: leetmom7

                    I think the problem with 'fresh' turkeys is by definition they can be transported and held at 26degrees; below freezing, so ice crystals form in the flesh as they fluxuate in temp - even slightly - as they are moved, handled, and put in the case. They oooooze water (even if a brined fresh kosher turkey), so a frozen bird has far less issues with bruising, fluid loss, etc. usually resulting in a juicier turkey. Not so much about health risks, as the 26 degrees takes care of that issue - mostly, a frozen bird - just as flash-frozen expensive columbia river salmon is better than fresh - because the 'fresh' quality of frozen keeps all the qualities intact, until you thaw and prep and cook.

                  2. Your traditional Englishman won't eat a game bird unless it's so ripe the head falls off, for Pete's sake! We've gotten so used to meat being handled as though it were being operated on, that any carcass that smells a bit dead is regarded as utterly rotten, whereas it has in actuality perhaps begun to become properly toothsome. This was brought home to me in my late youth, when the Oklahoma radar site at which I was stationed was closing down, and a senior NCO who was a serious gourmand was put in charge of our daily meals. He used a good bit of the allotted ration money to buy some fine Oklahoma tenderloin, and his expertise to hang and dry-age it, then cut and bacon-wrap it to present to the troops as filet mignon. Holy doo-dah, kids. That was some kind of meat this nineteen-year-old had never et before, but suddenly wanted to any old time it was available again, whether it smelled funny or not.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Will Owen

                      Amen! I don't dry age meat -- maybe I should give it a try. But I don't cook any beef I buy until it's been in my fridge for a few days at least. AND I have distinct memories of my grandfather hunting deer and hanging them outside from the peak of the garage roof for at least a week before butchering it.

                    2. If cooked correctly, there's no bacterial problem with
                      any turkey. However, I'd say fresh birds are overpriced.

                      1. I wish I had spoken to your husband before buying this year's turkey from TJ's. I just opened the package to take out the giblets to start the stock....and the turkey smells really off. I bought it about a week after they came into the store....and kept in the coldest part of my fridge. So...now, I'm off the grocery store to try to find a turkey. Ugh.

                        1. I never buy turkey from TJ's. If I want fresh, I want local.
                          Otherwise, just buy frozen.

                          1. If you have a husband who prepares a very, very good turkey, a lot of women would thank their lucky stars and let him do it his way!

                            1. Hi, leetmom7:

                              When it comes to food safety, I'm siding with you. When it comes to food *quality* and value, I'm with DH.

                              Two points: (1) Although you *can* buy meat at TJ's, why WOULD anyone do that? IME, buying meat at TJ's is like buying it at a food co-op--doubtful quality and dubious longevity. (2) I bought my first fresh, organic, free-range turkey this Thanksgiving ($96!) from a specialty delicatessen. IMO, the $100 bird turned out EXACTLY like the flash-frozen birds costing $10.

                              What *did* you end up buying this year?


                              2 Replies
                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                my food co-op has the best butcher in the our area so I don't understand what you are talking about.
                                that said, I would not buy a fresh turkey at TJ's because the point of buying a fresh bird is freshness, which means local and recently killed in my mind.

                                1. re: magiesmom

                                  Hi, magiesmom:

                                  Your experience may be different than mine, and if so, good for everyone. IME, food co-ops, having a significant % of their membership of vegans and those who will *only* buy organic/free range, have paltry meat offerings to start with, and what they have has resided in the styro trays for a very long time. In fact, I can't recall a single food co-op I've ever been in that has a resident butcher. I guess you're lucky.


                              2. I buy Trader Joe's turkeys because it saves me the task of brining the bird, and, unlike Kosher turkeys that are also brined, TJ's turkeys have all the pinfeathers removed. I've never had a problem with a TJ turkey. Ironically enough, the only turkey that ever went bad on me was a frozen one nearly 30 years ago.

                                I buy fresh turkeys not because I expect that they were slaughtered the day before by a local butcher. I buy fresh because the meat is more tender.