(NEXSTAR) — When you pick out a Thanksgiving turkey from the grocery aisle, you are typically focused on the size, the cost and maybe even the brand. But most of us don’t know a whole lot else about the bird we plan to serve for the year’s most anticipated meal.
A recent question posed to the Farmer’s Almanac got straight to the point:
“Are the commercial turkeys you buy for Thanksgiving males or females, or both, and do males and females taste different?”
In short, the answer is that there are, on average, some differences in taste based on age and gender, according to the publication, which is known for seasonal projections and home management advice. Younger females and older males are apparently the top turkey choices among American consumers.
“Hens are usually eaten when they are young and small,” wrote the Farmer’s Almanac staff, citing toughness as a concern in older females. “Conversely, older males are preferred to younger ones because younger ones generally have stringy meat.”
So, in theory, the next time you bite into a tough bird you could be chewing on an older hen. At least that’s a more polite theory than blaming the chef for overcooking.
Of course, determining age and gender is impossible for most shoppers at the store. However, according to the upscale home goods brand Williams-Sonoma, there are several other things to look for on a label if you are choosy about your bird. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Basted or self-basting birds have been injected with solutions that add liquid to the bird. Some actually prefer the taste of an injected bird, but this may be a label to avoid if you don’t like heavy processing.
- Heritage birds are known to be minimally processed and considered flavorful, but they have also roamed free and may not have the fat content of other varieties.
- Similarly free range and pastured turkeys have been allowed to roam and may not be as plump and fatty as mass-farmed animals.
- If you like a gamy bird, you may want to look for a “wild” label, suggesting the bird is from a very small batch likely to be on the lean and dry side, according to Williams-Sonoma.