Why are some fresh turkeys...frozen?

Posted at 10:18 AM, Nov 26, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-26 10:18:48-05

But why are some fresh birds this year rock in frozen to the touch?

Rosemary Sirmans is cooking fresh collard greens and fresh cranberries -- no canned cranberry sauce for her family this holiday.

When it came to turkey, she also wanted fresh.

"The advertisement said all natural, not frozen. And so that means it’s not frozen," she said.

So the Oakley woman went to the nearby Fresh Thyme market.

But when she lined up for a fresh turkey, her heart sank when a lady in front of her started complaining.

"She said this is supposed to be fresh, and the man said this is fresh. And she said knock-knock-knock this is not fresh!"

Sirmans says all the turkeys were frozen on the outside.

So she went to another store, for one that was not rock hard.

Was it Really a Fresh Turkey?

No one at Fresh Thyme in Oakley would talk on camera.

But a corporate spokesperson told us they deliberately ship their turkeys "just below freezing" because it’s a health and safety issue. (Read full statement below)

So we went to an expert to learn more.

Mike Luken is owner of Luken Meats and Seafood....a generations-old institution at Cincinnati’s Findlay market.

Luken says fresh turkeys need to be transported just below freezing, at 26 to 28 degrees, or they spoil.

"That’s what keeps your turkeys fresh, otherwise they would be going bad so fast," he said.

He says they are different from deep frozen turkeys, which are shipped at near zero degrees, and can be 6 months old or more.

A turkey can be held at 28 degrees, the skin the outside will be a little firm, a little crisp," he said.  "But 28 degrees, you pull it out, get ready to cook it, it’s going to get up to room temperature in no time."

In addition, he says fresh turkeys must have been harvested in the past 2 - 3 weeks, not months ago.

Sirmans says she understands, but still wonders why the ad said "fresh, not frozen."

Whatever turkey you prefer, don't waste your money.


Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.

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Fresh Thyme issued a statement, saying they ship and keep their turkeys at 28 degrees to meet USDA  guidelines,and make sure none of their customers get a spoiled bird.

"In 1997, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service created the standard of identity for “Fresh” poultry. In this standard, fresh poultry was defined by the temperature of the product in the deep internal muscle.

In the case of a whole turkey, that would be in the center of the breast meat. The minimum temperature to remain “fresh” has been defined as 26F. In our process, we strive to ensure our birds are between 26F and 32F to maintain maximum fresh shelf life for our customers and consumers. At these temperatures, birds will be firm to the touch, but not frozen.

In addition, because truck trailers vary considerably in their ability to hold temperatures, we ship our trucks with a set point of 26F to maintain the product temperatures through delivery. We include temperature recording devices for our customers to verify trailer temperatures have been maintained."