Fresh, Frozen or Refrigerated

Fresh Turkeys? Frozen Turkeys? Refrigerated Turkeys?
What is the difference?

Because of new labeling requirements mandated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), you may be a little confused with the terminology used to describe turkeys. Here’s a brief recap of what these terms mean, and how Norbest is using them:


USDA regulations specifiy that any turkey which has ever been cooled to zero degrees Fahrenheit or lower must be labeled “frozen”. This should be no surprise, because they always have been! Most turkeys sold in the U.S. are frozen. All Norbest frozen turkeys are flash frozen to zero degrees or lower immediately after processing and held there all the way to the store. At this temperature they are rock hard solid frozen, just the way they should be!

Frozen turkeys have the longest shelf life. They may be held almost indefinitely with no loss in wholesomeness, although some flavor and texture deterioration may occur after a couple of years.

Frozen turkeys are often an advantage because they can be purchased in advance whenever it is most convenient or when they are on sale. Experts recommended that frozen turkeys be thawed before roasting, because the meat will be more moist.


According to new USDA regulations, turkeys may be labeled “fresh” only if their deep internal muscle temperature has never fallen below 26 degrees Fahrenheit. Norbest is deeply concerned about the food safety risk this would pose. Our research and long experience shows a dramatic reduction in shelf life and increase in risk of spoilage at temperatures above 26 degrees. Norbest is so serious about truth in labeling and about responsible food safety that we will not sell turkeys labeled “fresh”.


The best way to handle non-frozen product, and the most responsible way from a food safety standpoint, is the way Norbest has learned to do it. We’re determined not to change. We’ve chosen to label our non-frozen turkeys “refrigerated” to be fair to our consumers, to be truthful in labeling, and to comply with USDA regulations.

Norbest quickly chills refrigerated turkeys down to a deep muscle target temperature of 24 to 26 degrees Fahrenheit immediately after processing. Then we rush them to the supermarket as soon as possible. Any temperature above that would run a risk of quality concerns, and product at temperatures much below that could be chilled too hard to be honestly labeled this way.

At this optimum temperature (24 to 26 degrees F) the surface of the turkey may be stiff, but not hard. This stiffness is the consumer’s assurance the product has been rushed to the store in its most wholesome condition. This stiff surface quickly disappears as the product temperature adjusts to that of the retail case, which is usually a little higher.

Refrigerated turkeys are sometimes convenient because they do not need to be thawed. They require special handling to assure the best possible quality and flavor. Refrigerated turkeys should be cooked or frozen by the “use by” date found on the weight tag or weight sticker.


You can confidently choose the turkey that best meets your needs. Whether frozen or refrigerated, all Norbest turkeys are Satisfaction Guaranteed!