Holiday meals often mean we give ourselves the okay to break our diet and eat the festive foods that we have loved since childhood. If you are dieting for weight control, you may be able to get away with giving yourself a “cheat day.” If you have food allergies there is no room for cheating.
If you or someone in your family has a food allergy, you are probably an expert at reading food labels. But you may not have thought to read the label on a turkey. Many turkeys sold under the most popular brand names boast that they are basted or self-basting to make them more tender. This means moisture is added to the meat by injecting a solution which often includes butter or other fat, plus broth, stock, or water, and spices and other flavor enhancers.
The allergens most often found in turkeys include dairy, soy, wheat, and corn products. These ingredients are most often found in the basting solution. The United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires labeling on basted poultry that says something similar to this: “Injected with ___% of a solution of ________(list of ingredients).”
To find a basic bird that has not been altered from its natural state, look for a turkey that has been “minimally processed.” This includes most turkeys that are labeled as “natural”. These birds should only have turkey and possibly water in the list of ingredients.
Kosher meats, including turkey, must be raised and prepared under the supervision of a Rabbi. This does not affect basting or other ingredients that may be added to the bird. So don’t assume a kosher turkey is allergen-free. Some brands of kosher turkey are allergen-free. But this is a matter of choice for those companies, not a requirement. Organic, free-range, and ready-to-eat are other phrases you may find on the label that do not indicate an allergen-free bird. The only way you can be sure your allergen has not been added to a turkey is to carefully read the list of ingredients.
If you live in an area where the only turkeys available are basted or self-basting, you may have to look for another option for your holiday table. You may have better luck finding just a turkey breast or turkey legs that are minimally processed. You can also mail-order turkeys that are minimally processed, although you should expect to pay a higher price for a mail-order bird.