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Thanksgiving Turkey: Part 2–How to Roast a Turkey and the Butterball Turkey Abuse Video

My friend Ann graciously shared how to roast a turkey, but before we get into that, I want to address a recent issue that you may have seen on the news.
turkey animal welfareMercy for Animals has released a video showing abuse of turkeys at a Butterball turkey farm. I want to be very clear when I say that we, and the majority of the other farmers in the United States, do not abuse our animals.
Our turkeys spend almost 6 months on our farm, and during that time, they live comfortable lives. They have constant access to food and fresh water, and the climate controlled barns mean that they are not stressed by changes in the weather. A ventilation system ensures that they get fresh air, and sick or injured turkeys are taken care of.
We have specific animal care guidelines to follow from the National Turkey Federation and our meat processing plant, and yearly on-farm “audits” to ensure that we are doing things correctly. All the farms who provide meat to our processing plant must meet the same high expectations.treatment on turkey farms
Obviously, there are bad farmers in the world. But 98% of farms in the United States are FAMILY FARMS, and most of them show the same dedication to animal welfare that we have. For a livestock farmer, the world revolves around the well-being of your animals. I can list example after example showing how much our birds mean to us and the things my husband has sacrificed in order to make sure that they are comfortable and healthy. Missed family gatherings, late night alarms to adjust system settings, hours and hours and hours spent in the heat keeping turkeys cool…it goes on and on.
baby turkeysSo this Thanksgiving, Mercy for Animals would like you to believe that your turkey lived a tough life, but the truth is far from that. Don’t let one bad actor give all farmers a bad name. Rest assured that the vast majority of turkeys raised in the United States are comfortable and healthy.
If you have ANY questions about the way turkeys are raised, please ASK!

Now, how to roast a turkey, from Cook’s Country (AKA America’s Test Kitchen)
Roasted Turkey
1 (12-22 pound) turkey, fully thawed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Salt and pepper
1. Prepare bird. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the plastic wrapping from the outside of the whole turkey or turkey breast. Remove the giblets and the neck. (Giblets are the turkey’s gizzard, heart and liver. The giblets and neck, when cooked until tender, are delicious additions to the gravy or stuffing. Pat turkey dry with paper towels. Tuck legs into pocket of skin at tail end (alternatively, tie legs with kitchen twine) and tuck wings under bird.
2. Butter and season. Line V-rack with foil and poke several holes in foil. Set rack inside large roasting pan and spray foil with cooking spray. (A metal cooking rack in a shallow pan or a covered roasting pan with approximately 2-inch sides will allow for the heat to circulate evenly around the turkey.) Brush breast and legs of turkey with half of butter and season with salt and pepper. Arrange turkey, breast side down in rack. Brush remaining butter over back of turkey and season with salt and pepper. Roast turkey for 1 hour.
Be sure to thoroughly wash any surfaces that come in contact with the turkey and the giblets and your hands.
3. Flip turkey. Remove turkey from oven. Tip juices from cavity of turkey into pan. Using clean pot holders or kitchen towels, carefully flip turkey breast-side up. Roast until breast meat registers 160 degrees and thigh meat registers 175 degrees, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Transfer to carving board and let rest, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Carve and serve.
Turkey Roasting Timetable (for 325 degree oven)
Weight of Turkey
Cook Time
4 to 8 pounds
1 1/2 to 3 1/4 hours
8 to 12 pounds
2 1/2 to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds
3 to 3 3/4 hours
14 to 18 pounds
3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds
4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours
20 to 24 pounds
4 1/2 to 5 hours
Thermometers: If your turkey has a pop-up timer it should spring when the turkey reaches the recommended temperature. However, a meat thermometer is a more reliable gauge and should be used to test the temperature in several places. If you use an instant read thermometer, it is not designed to stay in the turkey while in the oven.
While the USDA recommends that you not stuff a turkey, you can still enjoy dressing. An unstuffed turkey cooks faster than one that is stuffed. And, baking the dressing separately reduces the amount of fat absorbed by the dressing inside the turkey.
1. Oven casserole – Bake in a greased, covered casserole dish during the last hour while the turkey roasts or until dressing reaches 165 degrees.
2. Foil pouch – Bake in a foil pouch next to the turkey in the roaster pan.
3. Microwave – Cook in a microwave-safe casserole dish in the microwave.
4. Slow cooker – Free up oven space by making dressing in a slow cooker.
Note: Make sure dressing reaches 165 degrees.
Turkey Gravy
1. Pour drippings from the roasted turkey (the fat and juice in the roasting pan) into a large measuring cup. Let stand about 10 minutes.
2. Skim off 4 tablespoons of the fat that accumulates on the top and place back into the roasting pan or a saucepan. Reserve the turkey broth.
3. Whisk in 4 tablespoons of flour. (A whisk helps prevent lumps). Cook and stir over medium heat until bubbly, thick and slightly brown. Turn heat down.
4. Slowly add 2 cups of turkey broth. (If there is not enough liquid add milk, water or purchased broth to make 2 cups.) Cook and stir until thickened. Add chopped, cooked turkey giblets, if desired. Stir in salt and pepper, to taste.

Remember – any questions or concerns about the way turkeys are raised?  Please ASK ME!

Would you like to comment?

  1. Well said! You are such a great advocate for the turkey industry! Pretty convenient timing on MFA - curious how long they've been holding on to that video.

  2. These tapes bother me as much as the next person, but I'm also annoyed by the sweeping generalization we're all supposed to make from it. I look at it this way: there are people out there who want to abuse animals, who like it. Sad but true. If possible, they are going to get jobs where they can do so. Sometimes they will get caught quickly and fired, sometimes they won't. They are not the norm and to suggest that they are or that every animal farm must be like that shows an almost comic misunderstanding of farming, economics and human nature.

  3. Thanks for sharing this. I think there are a lot of propaganda tapes about animal rights out there, and most of them probably come from somebody/somebodies who think that EATING animals is cruel, so obviously they're out to try to make the rest of the population think that some sort of ill treatment is happening along the process.

    I'm personally a pescatarian (fish only) — mostly. But it has nothing to do with the treatment of animals. I am a little freaked out about hormones in my food after getting a chicken breast where one half was more than twice the size of the other. So I still eat meat from time to time, but I make a point to get the meat from a local farm where I know what practices they follow. Not to say that a farmer that uses hormones and antibiotics is bad — just that I *personally* don't want to eat their products.

    1. Hi!

      Thank you so much for your comment. You're right...at the end of the video, Mercy for Animals encourages people to choose a vegetarian option for Thanksgiving. They are unabashedly trying to put an end to animal agriculture.

      And I fully support your choice to buy local, so that you know what practices the farmer follows. That's why I'm trying to share with EVERYONE how big farms like ours really work, so that they can have the same confidence wherever they buy meat.

      I need to clear up one thing, though...giving poultry added hormones has been illegal for decades. The reason turkey (and chicken) breasts are so large has to do with traditional breeding. Scientists have bred large breasted birds with other large breasted birds repeatedly, until we have our current flock of super-large breasted birds! This was done to meet the great demand for lean, white breast meat.

      One more thing, we DO snuggle those turkey chicks. :) They're adorable. And that's why we take such great care of them until they go to market. We know what their purpose is from the beginning, and we try to make sure they're as comfortable as can be until they serve their purpose. :)

    2. Oh, and any other questions, please ask!!!

  4. Also, I have to point out that I would snuggle one of those turkey chicks in a moment, and that, right there, is why I am not a farmer. It takes a special person to coddle and raise animals for the purpose of being food.

  5. This was such a wonderful post Katie and very informative. I've wondered for a long time why chicken breasts can tend to be so huge now! Thank you so much for your explanation.

    I'd love it if you could post something pertaining to water being injected into poultry. I definitely notice that some whole chickens I buy end up not having much meat on them, then another brand will have tons of meat. Is it just salt water they inject to make it weigh more, therefore we pay more?

    I love turkey though and, the reality is, most of the population still eats meat and will continue to!

    1. Hi Victoria,

      I'm not sure about the water being injected. That is something that would happen after they leave our farm. I will check into it, though.