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Butterball Turkey vs Store Brand Turkey: Pros & Cons

When you’re in the store and your only options are Butterball turkey vs store brand, which one should you choose and why? This head-to-head matchup should make it easier for you to decide.

Butterball Turkey vs Store Brand Turkey

Butterball products are generally high in quality, but their whole turkeys are pre-brined in a saltwater solution. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if you don’t appreciate the qualities of brined poultry or want to do the brining yourself, you might want to select a store brand turkey instead.

About Butterball

As a brand, Butterball has a superb reputation. They may be the most recognizable name in the game when it comes to turkey products. What’s more, they offer a quality product while maintaining a commitment to the well-being of the animals.

The company has been in business since 1954. Based in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, Butterball is currently the largest producer of turkey products in the United States.

About Store Brand Turkey

Store brand or “regular” turkey doesn’t come with a brand name attached. As such, it’s difficult to say where the birds came from or how they were treated.

There are definite benefits to buying store brand turkey, though, which is what we’re here to discuss. If you narrow your search to include just Butterball turkeys, you might have a hard time finding exactly what you want.

Butterball Turkey vs Store Brand: A Breakdown

Price

This is the factor that drives many consumers to select one product over another. If it’s a bargain you’re looking for, it’s probably better to stick to store brand turkeys.

The per-pound price for Butterball turkeys hovers at around $1, even around the holidays. Within that same time frame, you might be able to procure a store brand turkey for under 40 cents per pound.

Of course, prices fluctuate depending on the store, not to mention the time of year. Check the labels to be sure you’re getting the best deal. Most of the time, however, you can expect to pay less for a store brand turkey than one that carries the Butterball label.

Prep Time

Butterball turkeys come pre-brined. The package you buy contains up to 8 percent of a saltwater solution, along with a few other natural flavorings. This helps to preserve the meat and allows it to retain more moisture as it cooks.

If you like the taste and texture of brined turkey, buying a Butterball product can save you a ton of time on the preparation end. Some store brand turkeys might contain a saltwater solution, but more often than not, they’re sold without this modification.

There are two sides to this story, though. When you create your own brine, you have more control over the amount of salt you use. It also allows you to experiment with other flavors.

Further, while it takes time for the brine to do its work, most of that time is hands-off. Once you’ve made the brine, allowed it to cool, and submerged the turkey, there isn’t much else for you to do until it’s time to start cooking.

In short, buy a Butterball turkey if you want the benefits of brining without taking the time to make a saltwater solution yourself. It is possible to brine a Butterball turkey, but we’ve found that this makes the meat taste overly salty.

Flavor

The pre-brining technique also provides Butterball turkeys with a bit of seasoning. It’s done primarily to help the meat retain moisture, but the turkey will have a saltier flavor than one that isn’t pre-brined.

Store bought turkeys that don’t have the brine solution, on the other hand, are blank slates as far as flavor is concerned. You can experiment with whatever ingredients you prefer without worrying about excess salt.

Animal Welfare

Butterball is American Humane Certified, meaning it meets a stringent set of criteria for animal care. No hormones, antibiotics, or steroids are used in their production, and they’ve implemented video auditing to ensure that no employee mistreats the animals.

It’s harder for store brand turkeys to offer the same peace of mind in this regard. You don’t know exactly how or where the birds were raised, which could pose a moral dilemma for some shoppers.

That said, the USDA forbids the use of hormones and steroids in poultry that’s raised for human consumption. The store brand products have to adhere to this criteria as well, or they wouldn’t be available for sale.

If you have strong feelings about animal care and welfare, then you may be more comfortable with a Butterball turkey. That said, there’s a good chance that the store brand turkey you buy was raised just as humanely.

Packaging

A Butterball turkey comes in a sealed package with easy-open tabs on the sides. This is a huge plus, as it eliminates the need for knives and scissors when unwrapping the turkey.

The store brand turkeys we’ve encountered don’t offer anything similar. You’ll probably have to cut the package open in order to free the bird. In addition to being a hassle, this increases the likelihood of spreading bacteria around the work station.

We’ll also mention that the giblet bags in Butterball turkeys are cook-proof. While it’s better to remove them, it shouldn’t do any harm if you forget, assuming the turkey was properly defrosted before you put it in the oven.

Grade

In the US, poultry is graded based on the quality of its appearance. While many consumers are familiar with the grading system for beef, the one for poultry isn’t as well-known.

All Butterball turkeys are Grade A. This means the birds were found to be free (or nearly free) of defects such as discoloration, pinfeathers, broken bones and bruising. Most of the turkeys you’ll find in the supermarket are Grade A turkeys—just check the label to be sure.

If the bird has visible defects, it will be graded B or C, depending on how many defects there were. Turkeys that earn Grade A status are usually slaughtered between 4 to 6 months of age.

Size

Butterball makes it easy to select a turkey that will suit your needs in terms of serving sizes. Their “Li’l Butterball” is available in sizes from 6 to 10 pounds, which is ideal for couples and small families.

If you need more turkey than that, Butterball also offers size ranges from 10 to 16 pounds, 16 to 20 pounds, 20 to 24 pounds, and up. Since we specifically recommend turkeys weighing 10 to 12 pounds for the smoker, these guidelines are a definite perk.

With store brand turkeys, it’s more difficult to select a specific size. You’ll probably be fine if you need a turkey that weighs between 10 and 16 pounds, but smaller ones and extra-large specimens are harder to come by.

What About a Fresh Turkey?

As an alternative to Butterball and store brand frozen turkeys, you can seek out a fresh turkey from a local farmer or butcher shop. You should cook these off within 3 to 5 days for best results, but bear in mind that you won’t have to bother with defrosting.

Fresh turkeys have a richer flavor and a juicier texture than birds that were previously frozen. You’ll pay a hefty price for the uptick in quality, however, as they also cost a great deal more per pound.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve purchased Butterball turkeys in the past and were pleased with the results, go ahead and stick with that brand whenever possible. On the other hand, if you don’t want a pre-brined turkey, you should be happy enough with a store brand product.

Happy grilling!