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Is honeysuckle White a good turkey?

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about the star of the holiday meal: the turkey. Honeysuckle White is one of the most popular turkey brands available at grocery stores across the US. But is it actually a tasty, high-quality turkey option for your Thanksgiving feast? There are a few key factors to consider when determining if Honeysuckle White turkeys are worth purchasing.

About Honeysuckle White Turkeys

Honeysuckle White is a brand of whole turkeys and turkey products produced by Cargill. The company says these turkeys are “raised with care in the Midwest” by independent family farmers. According to the Honeysuckle White website, their turkeys are fed a vegetable and grain-based diet with no animal by-products or growth hormones. The turkeys are processed in Cargill facilities in Arkansas City, Kansas and Springdale, Arkansas.

Honeysuckle White offers several turkey product lines:

  • Honeysuckle White Whole Turkeys – These are premium, high-quality whole fresh and frozen turkeys. They come in a variety of sizes, from 10 to 24 pounds.
  • Honeysuckle White Premium – Specialty seasoned or marinated whole turkeys like Cajun Style Turkey and Applewood Smoked Turkey.
  • Honeysuckle White Natural* – Minimally processed whole turkeys with no artificial ingredients.
  • Honeysuckle White Organic* – USDA certified organic whole turkeys.
  • Honeysuckle White Turkey Breast – Boneless turkey breast roasts and cutlets.
  • Honeysuckle White Ground Turkey – Ground turkey in various fat contents.
  • Honeysuckle White Deli Meats – Sliced turkey deli meats.

*Note the “Natural” label just means no artificial ingredients are added. But the turkeys are still raised conventionally with standard practices and feed. Only the Organic line is USDA Organic certified.

Turkey Quality

When it comes to taste, texture and freshness, how does Honeysuckle White compare to other turkey brands? Here are some factors to evaluate:

1. Breed

Honeysuckle White turkeys are standard Broad Breasted White turkeys, the most common commercial breed. These turkeys have been selectively bred to grow very large breast muscles quickly. While this yields more white meat, it can negatively impact flavor and texture.

2. Feed

As mentioned before, Honeysuckle White turkeys are fed a diet of corn, soy, grains and vitamins. They are not allowed to forage on grasses or insects like heirloom breed turkeys. The vegetable diet contributes to mild flavor.

3. Free Range or Pasture Raised?

The majority of Honeysuckle White turkeys are raised in indoor barns with some freedom of movement. But they do not have access to the outdoors. The organic line is the only pasture raised option.

4. Fresh or Frozen?

Honeysuckle White offers both fresh and frozen whole turkeys. In general, fresh turkeys tend to be higher quality, with more flavor and juiciness if cooked properly. But frozen can still be a good option.

5. Wet Aging

Wet aging is a process where turkeys are chilled in refrigerated coolers to allow the meat time to relax and become more tender. Most mass market turkeys are wet aged for some period of time. Honeysuckle White told me their whole turkeys are wet aged but would not disclose the exact length.

How Customers Rate Honeysuckle White

Looking at consumer reviews can provide insight into real experiences with the brand:

Positive Feedback

  • Good flavor, especially for a mass market turkey
  • Meat is consistently moist and tender
  • Minimal plastic packaging compared to Butterball
  • Healthy, large birds
  • Competitively priced

Negative Feedback

  • Lack of juiciness and flavor compared to premium brands
  • Poor texture with uneven density of meat
  • Inconsistent sizes and quality
  • Occasional shipping damage
  • More expensive than generic store brands

Overall, Honeysuckle White receives average to above average reviews with many happy customers but also some complaints about quality inconsistencies.

How Other Popular Turkey Brands Compare

Honeysuckle White faces stiff competition from other major turkey brands sold at grocery stores. Here is how a few key competitors stack up:

Brand Price Raise Feed Aging Ratings
Butterball $$ Indoor barns Corn, soy, grains 2-8 days 3.5/5
Honeysuckle White $$ Indoor barns Corn, soy, grains Undisclosed 4/5
Jennie-O $ Indoor barns Vegetable diet 3-5 days 3.8/5
Shady Brook Farms $$ Free range Vegetable diet 1-2 weeks 4.2/5
Portland Turkey Co. $$$ Pasture raised Vegetables, grass 1-2 weeks 4.7/5

This comparison shows Honeysuckle White is competitively priced for a mass market turkey brand raised conventionally indoors. It earns slightly higher customer satisfaction ratings than Butterball or Jennie-O. However premium raise and feed results in higher quality taste and texture for brands like Shady Brook Farms and Portland Turkey Co according to reviews.

Is Honeysuckle White Worth the Price?

Given all the factors – breed, feed, housing, aging, and customer feedback – is Honeysuckle White worth the price you pay compared to generic store brands or premium turkeys?

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Honeysuckle White is a decent mid-range option priced affordably for a national brand.
  • The turkeys are respectable quality but may lack the rich flavor and moisture of premium turkeys.
  • There can be minor inconsistencies in size, shape, and density of meat.
  • The majority are not free range or pasture raised. The organic line offers a better life for turkeys.
  • For budget buyers, Honeysuckle White still outperforms cheap no-name turkeys.
  • Those seeking premium quality may want to buy from local farms or step up to regional brands like Shady Brook.

The final recommendation is to decide your priorities and splurge only if a premium turkey significantly enhances your Thanksgiving traditions and meal enjoyment. For many households, Honeysuckle White hits a sweet spot of affordability and reliable results. When prepared properly and flavored well, it can make a delicious holiday centerpiece.

Tips for Cooking a Juicy, Flavorful Honeysuckle White Turkey

Follow these tips to get the most out of a Honeysuckle White turkey:

Choose Fresh Over Frozen

Pick the freshest turkey you can find that was never previously frozen. Check the pack date. Fresh turkeys have more moisture and flavor.

Buy a Few Days Before Cooking

Let the turkey sit in the fridge 2-3 days to allow the meat time to relax. The upfront thawing helps it cook up more evenly.

Salt and Air Dry the Skin

Air drying uncovers the skin and forms a tacky surface for crisping. Rub kosher salt under and on top of the skin which seasons the meat and further dries the skin.

Cook Aromatics Under the Skin

Sliding compound butter, herbs, citrus, and aromatics under the skin favors the meat during cooking.

Watch the Temperature

Cook to 165F in the breast and 175F in the thigh. Baste to prevent drying out. Let rest before carving.

Make Flavorful Gravy

Sauté aromatics then whisk in drippings and broth to make a rich, flavorful gravy that complements the turkey.

Enjoy the Extras

Use leftovers for sandwiches, soups, casseroles, and more. Stuff the carcass to make bone broth.

The Bottom Line

Honeysuckle White offers a conventionally-raised whole turkey option at competitive prices through grocery stores nationwide. While premium brands will be higher quality, Honeysuckle can still produce a tasty Thanksgiving turkey with proper preparation and cooking. Look to buy the freshest bird you can find and enhance flavor with brining, spicing under the skin, basting, and gravy making. With reasonable expectations, Honeysuckle White can be a fine choice for many Thanksgiving meals.