Thursday, November 18, 2010


The turkey, with its ill-fated call, has dressed many tables through holiday seasons, past and present.  Increasingly it’s becoming a protein for everyday, also.  Though hubby and I both enjoy turkey, there’s only the two of us now, attempting to eat calorie-wise.  While turkey is a lean protein, most are just too large.  Re-freezing any meat is discouraged so, even if we made soup, there was often waste.  For this reason, we rarely cooked whole frozen turkey and standard prices for store-butchered turkey pieces were expensive enough to make them an infrequent meal option.

Fortunately, whole turkey is now being sold fresh or “air-chilled,” not frozen.    Though this option is still infrequent, it allows us to enjoy turkey more frequently by butchering the fresh bird at home and freezing the various portions.  Our cost of butchering is considerably less than store costs.  The simple table below relates the best prices we found, on October 10, 2010, at which time we bought the whole, air chilled turkey* in this comparison:

Approx.              Cut/Form                        Best price per lb.                    Total                       Whole, fresh *                          Total
pounds                                                       store-butchered             store-butchered            home-butchered               home-butchered
    0           Ground:  Breast meat                   $6.89                             $0                               $2.13                                  $0
    1           Ground:  Leg meat                        $3.99                             $ 3.99                         $2.13                                  $2.13
    3           Drumsticks (2): for soups,
                     casseroles & pizzas                   $2.89                             $ 8.67                         $2.13                                  $6.39
    2           Wings                                             $1.99                             $ 3.98                          $2.13                                 $4.26
    5            Breast roasts (2):  
                      Boneless, skinless                   $6.99                            $34.95                          $2.13                                $10.65
   11                  SUB-TOTALS                                                             $51.59                                                                   $23.43

20 cups     Clear Stock:  remaining carcass weighing approx.
                  4.5 lbs., includes bones, wing tips, neck, back, and
                  some breast meat.                                                                  n/a*                        $0.48*                               $ 9.68
                             TOTALS                                                                   $51.59                                                                  $33.11

* For this comparison, all meat-cut/forms are in POUNDS and COST PER POUND.
* Air-Chilled Turkey:  7.06 kg (Approx. 15.5 lbs); $4.69 per kg (Approx. $2.13 per lb); Total cost = $33.11
* Turkey stock is unavailable to us, whether from the butcher, in cans or cartons.
* Turkey-stock cost per cup reflects cost of protein only.

As you can see, our whole turkey cost less than two, comparably sized, store-butchered, boneless, skinless turkey breasts.  The only items which cost us more per pound were the wings.  However the net difference is only $.28 and that was easily subsidized by the savings gained with any of the other cuts/forms.  We prefer not to grind breast meat, but found its store-cost worth noting, particularly odd because it was sold for less than whole breast.  If we had bought all the various cuts, butchered in-store, our $33.11 bird would’ve cost over $50 ...and that’s without stock.

The value of the stock I’ve calculated by subtracting our home-butchered, wrapped meats’ total value ($23.43) from the cost of the whole bird ($33.11), and dividing that result ($9.68) by the 20 cups of gelatinous “liquid gold” we put in the freezer.  Add to that the cost of vegetables, herbs and seasonings, the total cost per cup ranges from $.50 to $.55.  Still an excellent value, particularly as we are unable to buy turkey stock anywhere.

Organic turkey costs more per pound whether store- or home-butchered.  Though higher, organic costs compare similarly to the table above.  If you prefer organic, then the whole bird, dressed at home, still nets the greatest savings.  Its stock is, as always, a flavour-packed bonus.

Now that fresh turkey is occasionally available, it dresses our table much more regularly.  Home-butchery not only saves us money, it provides several meals worth of stock and, ultimately, reduces waste to its least.