According to this answer, you are allowed to market turkeys as fresh as long as they haven't been frozen below 26°F. What is the purpose of this law/regulation?

  • Possibly related is that sushi fish is often "deep frozen" in order to kill parasites, but at temperatures of at least -4ºF, usually -31ºF. Dec 20, 2014 at 4:55

1 Answer 1


Water freezes at 32F, but turkey contains more than just water. Alton Brown answers this question in his original turkey episode of Good eats. The meat freezes at 26F, so they can call it "fresh" if it's kept at say, 30F (below the freezing temp for water).

The USDA recognizes "frozen" for a turkey as having been brought down to 0F. Apparently the middle range is called "refrigerated" (frozen, but not quite as rock hard as a bird at 0F).

More information here.

Edit: The rules themselves make sense I think. At 30f your turkey meat isn't frozen. Now whether the transport and stores have it at 25f or 27f I don't know how strict they are. I could see turkeys crossing that 26f threshold because of human error.

Edit 2: As Ben pointed out. Surface ice is very likely as the bird itself is below the freezing point of water. Condensation will freeze on the surface as normal. It is the quality of the meat that is of concern.

  • 4
    Explaining why I always have ice on my "fresh" turkey. Dec 19, 2014 at 19:49
  • 1
    Wow that is depressing
    – Zombo
    Dec 20, 2014 at 5:20
  • @satanicpuppy Surface moisture is still just water (e.g. evaporated from the moist bird) and freezes at 32F like any other water. The freezing point goes down when something is dissolved in it. Dec 21, 2014 at 20:11

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