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Butterball vs Jennie-O Turkey: Is One Better Than The Other?

When you’re shopping for a frozen turkey, which should you choose? Some stores stock a variety of brands, which can make it tougher to narrow down your options.

In the interest of helping you decide between two of the more popular brands, we’ve put together this Butterball vs. Jennie-O turkey matchup.

Butterball vs Jennie-O Turkey

Butterball turkeys are typically less expensive and easier to handle than Jennie-O products. Their birds are available in a wider range of sizes, too. However, Jennie-O is devoted to humane farming practices, so if that’s an important factor in your decision-making, opt for one of their turkeys instead.

Why It Matters

When you’re smoking a turkey, you want to start with a quality product. Flavor is the most important factor, but texture and juiciness are high on the list as well.

If buying a fresh turkey from a reputable local farmer isn’t an option for you, Butterball and Jennie-O may be your top choices. There will probably be a store brand option as well, but as those can vary in quality, we’re sticking with these two for now.

About Butterball Turkey

Most of the whole Butterball turkeys you’ll encounter will be pre-brined. If this is the case, it should be indicated on the package.

Look at the label to see if it says something like, “May contain up to 8 percent solution of water, salt, and flavorings.” That means the turkey is packaged with a brine solution, so you shouldn’t have to brine the meat yourself.

Butterball has a long history of offering quality birds at a reasonable price. While you may be able to score a better deal on a store brand turkey—especially around the holidays—buying Butterball is still cheaper than buying fresh.

When you buy a Butterball turkey, you’ll find that the packaging is fairly easy to remove. As long as the turkey is thawed, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting it out of the wrapper.

Another thing we appreciate about Butterball is their extensive website, which offers a multitude of recipes and other useful articles. If you’re unsure how long or at what temperature to cook your turkey, the website can point you in the right direction.

About Jennie-O Turkey

Jennie-O is a subsidiary of Hormel Foods Corporation, which is renowned for its meat products. Hormel pepperoni, for example, is one of the best-known products of its kind.

The company raises most of its turkeys in Wisconsin, with a focus on humane practices. If you’re concerned about animal rights, then Jennie-O could be the brand for you.

There are a number of easy-to-follow guides available on Hormel’s website. This eliminates the need for experimentation when cooking a whole turkey.

You may also find recipes included on the packaging. While this may seem like a convenient perk, we prefer to follow our own recipes. In our experience, the Jennie-O recipes don’t yield the best results.

Are Jennie O Turkeys Good?

Consumers continue to debate this question. We’ve read reviews from buyers who claimed that their Jennie-O turkey came out perfectly, and some from others who felt that the meat was waterlogged and lacked flavor as a result.

Our advice would be to buy a Jennie-O turkey and try it for yourself. As long as you follow the proper protocol for defrosting, cooking, and handling the meat, it should be safe to consume. You can always opt for another brand next time if you don’t like it.

Butterball vs Jennie-O Turkey: Breaking it Down

Price

If you’re looking to save money, Butterball is your best bet. Most of the time, the per-pound price of a Butterball turkey will be lower than the one offered by Jennie-O. Depending on how large the turkey is (see below), the savings can be significant.

Size

Butterball and Jennie-O turkeys are typically available in similar sizes. However, if you want a very small or very large turkey, it may be easier to find one from Butterball.

Jennie-O’s usual offerings range from 10 to 25 pounds. Meanwhile, Butterball sells their turkeys in size ranges of 10 to 16 pounds, 16 to 20 pounds, and so on.

Butterball’s website lists their whole turkeys as ranging in weight from 10 to 32 pounds. That means you should have an easier time finding an oversized Butterball turkey if that’s what you’re after.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the “Fresh Li’l Butterball.” These specimens range between 6 and 10.5 pounds in weight. Since we recommend smaller turkeys for the smoker, these could be just the ticket.

Quality

This category is something of a toss-up. We’ve had decent luck with both of these products. In our experience, the quality of a previously frozen turkey has more to do with the preparation than the brand.

While the 8 percent solution provides moisture to Butterball turkeys, it can make them taste too salty for some palates. Jennie-O’s All Natural Fresh Whole Turkeys, meanwhile, have not been treated with a similar solution (see Pre-Brining, below).

Our advice would be to buy whichever product is available and see what you think. If both are available, select the one that’s selling at a lower price.

Packaging

As we pointed out, Butterball’s outer packaging is simple to remove. It comes with a set of outer tabs that you pull off to release the turkey from its wrapper.

The giblet bag in a Butterball turkey is cook-proof, too. That means you don’t have to worry about the turkey being ruined if you forgot to remove it.

You won’t have the same easy access to a Jennie-O turkey. You might need to enlist the aid of scissors or a paring knife to get the wrapper off.

What’s more, while Jennie-O turkeys come with a heatproof plastic clamp to hold the legs together, Butterball turkeys use a “natural leg tuck.” That means they use the skin of the turkey to hold the legs in place, making the bird easier to stuff.

Be aware that Jennie-O “Oven-Ready” turkeys do not come with a giblet bag. These turkeys are meant to go directly from the freezer to the oven. Because the neck and giblet bag might cause steam to build up in the turkey cavity, they’re not included in the package.

Farming Practices

Butterball is American Humane Certified, which means the American Humane Association has recognized their clean farming practices. Their birds are all-natural, with no hormones or steroids used.

While that’s impressive, Jennie-O takes this a step further by offering a “turkey tracker.” You can actually check out the farm that your turkey came from by using this application.

Pre-Brining

As we pointed out earlier, Butterball whole turkeys are usually pre-brined. This helps to preserve the meat, and you won’t have to go to the trouble of brining it yourself.

Some Jennie-O turkeys offer this option, but not all of them. This information is just as important for people who want to avoid pre-brined turkeys as it is for those who prefer them.

Other Turkey Products

Both Jennie-O and Butterball offer other products besides just whole turkeys.

Ground turkey, turkey bacon, pre-made turkey burgers, and turkey meatballs are a few of the items in Butterball’s lineup. Jennie-O features similar products, along with deli-style turkey, sausage, and drumsticks.

In the past, both companies have had issues with their ground meat products. Jennie-O ground turkey tends to contain a great deal of cartilage, while Butterball has faced recalls when plastic was found in their ground meat products.

Should I Buy a Fresh Turkey Instead?

If you can afford it, we would recommend trying a fresh turkey at least once. Though you’ll definitely feel the difference in your wallet, chances are you’ll notice a marked improvement in terms of quality.

Many consumers who prefer Jennie-O to Butterball appreciate the fact that you can research the farms where the turkeys were raised. When you buy one from a farmer who lives close to you, you’ll be able to take in the conditions firsthand.

Cultivating a relationship with a nearby farmer is similar to forging a bond with your local butcher. They’ll be able to provide you with information about the animals’ diets, how they spent their days, and the current butchering practices.

In fact, if you’re thinking about buying a fresh turkey for the holidays, this may be the best way to go about it. It’s possible to order “fresh” turkeys from grocery stores and co-ops, but it can be tough to tell when these birds were processed.

Processing millions of turkeys within the space of a few days is no mean feat. These logistical hurdles mean that the “fresh” turkey you buy at the store may have been previously frozen anyway. Keep that in mind when deciding between fresh and frozen.

Final Thoughts

In general, Butterball wins in more categories than Jennie-O does. Since the two are comparable in terms of quality, we would give Butterball the edge.

The only caveat is that Jennie-O provides you with more information regarding farming practices. So if it’s important for you to know whether the animals you’re eating were treated humanely, you might feel more comfortable with Jennie-O.

Happy grilling!