In the US, turkeys labelled "fresh" can't be held (by the retailer) below 26F. The idea, as I've understood it, is that fresh turkeys aren't supposed to be frozen.

Well, one that I bought last year was definitely frozen in the middle. And yesterday, I was shopping for a thanksgiving turkey and all of the ones labelled "fresh" were suspiciously firm to the touch.

My question is, Will a turkey held at 26F freeze? Or at least become what a person might think of as frozen?

  • 1
    You do realize that 26F is 6 degrees below the freezing point? – wumpus D'00m Nov 26 '19 at 14:44
  • @wumpusD'00m Well yes, but turkey meat infused with turkey goo may depress the freezing temperature, like salt does. – Kenster Nov 26 '19 at 14:45

Good Eats actually had something on this many years ago, as effectively turkeys aren't just water, so it doesn't freeze at the same point at water.

Copying/reformatting from the Good Eats Fan Page transcript of Romancing the Bird:

Chuck: Just look at this. The USDA recognizes three distinctive market varieties of turkeys. The first is frozen.

Alton: Meaning below 32 degrees?

Chuck: Only turkeys cooled to zero degrees or lower can be labeled frozen.

Alton: Well, uh, set me straight here, Chuck, but I thought 32 was the freezing point.

Chuck: For water, sure. But the moisture in meat isn't just water. It's full of all manner of dissolved solids that effectively reduce its freezing point.

Alton: You don't say. Okay. Thanks.

Chuck: Oh, next at 1 to 26 degrees—although most manufacturers shoot for 24 to 26—are refrigerated birds.

Alton: But frozen are so great, why bother?

Chuck: Because refrigerated birds aren't as rock hard as frozen so they don't require as much thawing time. And grocers don't need as much freezer space.

Alton: Is that it?

Chuck: Oh, no, no, no. Fresh turkeys are a whole other thing. Fresh turkeys can never go below 26 degrees.

Alton: But that's still below freezing.

Chuck: Not in turkey.

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