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Celebrate Thanksgiving with Turkey…and Leftovers

Posted by Jennifer Porter, Deputy Administrator, AMS Livestock and Poultry Program in Farming Health and Safety
Nov 12, 2021
People celebrating Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is for family and time-honored traditions. The greatest tradition is the centerpiece to your meal – turkey. Over 2,500 American turkey farms work to bring just the right bird to your table. Here are tips to help you select your turkey and pointers to manage leftovers.

There will be plenty of turkey products, but shop early if you have a particular bird in mind. A hen, weighing 8 to 16 pounds, is a great option for smaller crowds. For larger crowds, look for a tom which weigh 16 to 24 pounds. You might consider pairing a smaller bird with a turkey breast or two, an excellent choice for intimate meals or as a supplement to the centerpiece turkey for larger gatherings.

Frozen birds have a wider selection of sizes. If you are looking for smaller sizes, check out fresh or specialty birds such as antibiotic free. You’ll want to purchase one pound of turkey for each person and a bit more for leftovers. Lastly, you’ll want the highest quality turkey. Only birds that exemplify the best eating characteristics earn the USDA Grade A shield, so look for the shield! Curious about prices? You can find advertised retail prices through our National Turkey Retail Report (PDF, 502 KB).

While the turkey centerpiece is the greatest Thanksgiving tradition, a close second is the leftovers. Store leftovers within two hours of cooking. Leftovers can be refrigerated for three to four days before you freeze them. When reheating, be sure they reach 165 °F on your food thermometer. And gobble up those leftovers to avoid food waste.

We’ve touched on selecting your turkey and leftovers, but how do you prepare the bird? The National Turkey Federation created Thanksgiving 101 as a guide to prepare your turkey, along with recipes for leftovers like BBQ Turkey Pizza. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Day 2021 infographic
Category/Topic: Farming Health and Safety