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What’s the difference between Jennie-O and Butterball?


Jennie-O and Butterball are two of the most popular brands of whole turkeys sold in American grocery stores. Both companies have been in the turkey business for over 50 years and produce high-quality birds for the holiday table. But there are some key differences between Jennie-O and Butterball turkeys that consumers should understand when deciding which brand to purchase.

In this comprehensive guide, we will compare and contrast Jennie-O and Butterball turkeys across a variety of factors including:

  • Company history and reputation
  • Turkey types and product line
  • Feed and farm management
  • Processing and packaging
  • Taste and texture
  • Cost and availability
  • Nutritional value
  • Food safety record

Understanding how Jennie-O and Butterball turkeys differ in these key areas will help shoppers make a more informed decision when purchasing their holiday bird. Whether you prefer Jennie-O or Butterball, both deliver high-quality turkeys that can star as the centerpiece of a memorable Thanksgiving, Christmas, or holiday feast.

Company History and Reputation

Jennie-O and Butterball have been leaders in the turkey business for over half a century. Here is some background on each brand:

Jennie-O:

  • Founded in 1940 in Willmar, Minnesota
  • Now a subsidiary of Hormel Foods, one of the largest U.S. food companies
  • Operates turkey processing plants across Minnesota and Wisconsin
  • Known for premium whole turkeys as well as turkey products like ground turkey, turkey bacon, and turkey burgers
  • Supplies over 20% of turkeys consumed in the U.S.

Butterball:

  • Founded in 1953 in Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Now owned by Seaboard Foods, which is the largest U.S. pork producer
  • Operates turkey processing facilities in North Carolina, Arkansas, and Missouri
  • Best known for whole turkeys but also sells turkey products
  • Supplies around 35-40% of turkeys eaten in the U.S.

Both Jennie-O and Butterball have built strong reputations for quality, service, and poultry expertise over the past 70+ years. Jennie-O’s connection to Hormel lends it stability as part of a major food corporation. Butterball is now backed by a power player in Seaboard Foods. Overall, consumers can feel confident purchasing either brand when it comes to reputation and experience in turkey production.

Turkey Types and Product Line

When it comes to the types of whole turkeys available, Jennie-O and Butterball again have some similarities and differences:

Jennie-O Turkey Types:

  • Fresh – Never frozen, sold refrigerated
  • Frozen – Sold frozen, typically needs 3 days to thaw
  • Free Range – Allowed access to the outdoors
  • Organic – Certified organic feed and processing
  • Heritage Breeds like Bourbon Red – Specialty offerings

Butterball Turkey Types:

  • Fresh – Never frozen, sold refrigerated
  • Frozen – Sold frozen, typically needs 3 days to thaw
  • Free Range – Allowed access to the outdoors
  • Organic – Certified organic feed and processing

Jennie-O edges out Butterball when it comes to heritage breed turkey diversity. Butterball focuses more on high-volume fresh and frozen whole turkeys. Both brands offer free range and certified organic birds for consumers interested in those specialty options.

Beyond whole turkeys, Jennie-O and Butterball each sell a variety of turkey products including:

Jennie-O Turkey Products:

  • Ground turkey
  • Turkey bacon
  • Turkey burgers and sausage
  • Deli meats
  • Frozen turkey entrees and sides

Butterball Turkey Products:

  • Ground turkey
  • Turkey burgers
  • Deli meats
  • Turkey bacon
  • Frozen turkey entrees and sides
  • Whole boneless turkeys

The product line diversity is fairly comparable between the Jennie-O and Butterball brands. Both deliver a wide range of turkey products outside of whole birds.

Feed and Farm Management

When it comes to turkey feed and raising:

  • Both Jennie-O and Butterball use only vegetarian feed, free of animal by-products.
  • Neither brand uses growth hormones or steroids.
  • Both boast humane treatment of turkeys with ample space provided.
  • Jennie-O offers USDA certified organic turkeys fed organic grains.
  • Butterball has standards for animal welfare but no certified organic line.
  • Butterball focuses more on NAE turkeys with less stress and handling.

Overall, there are not huge differences between Jennie-O and Butterball in how the turkeys are raised and fed. Both meet humane standards with vegetarian diets and no hormones. The main advantage Jennie-O has is offering certified organic birds. Butterball’s NAE program emphasizes lower-stress handling.

Processing and Packaging

When it comes to processing their turkeys for sale:

  • Both Jennie-O and Butterball quick freeze their fresh turkeys to lock in flavor and juice.
  • Butterball invented the fan-shaped plastic clip that keeps the turkey cavity in shape.
  • Jennie-O relies more on re-sealable plastic bag packaging for fresh birds.
  • Butterball uses more butcher wrap packaging to showcase the turkey shape.
  • Both brands apply pop-up timers to turkeys to help indicate doneness.
  • Butterball offers whole boneless turkeys for easier carving.

There are some minor differences in how Jennie-O and Butterball process and package their fresh turkeys. However, both use quick freezing and pop-up timers to deliver quality birds that cook consistently. Butterball popularized the iconic plastic fan holder but Jennie-O primarily relies on re-sealable bags.

Taste and Texture

When it comes to the most important factors – taste and texture:

  • Both Jennie-O and Butterball earn strong reviews for fresh, juicy flavor.
  • Critics praise the tender, moist texture of the meat for both brands.
  • Butterball may have a slight edge for being extra juicy and delicious.
  • Jennie-O wins points for its broad range of flavorful heritage turkey varieties.
  • Overall both are considered excellent quality turkeys for holiday meals.

It’s difficult to declare a clear taste and texture winner between Jennie-O and Butterball. Both produce incredibly delicious, juicy whole turkeys. Butterball may be a bit more universally pleasing while Jennie-O offers more unique flavor for those who like to branch out. But you can count on exceptional quality from both brands.

Cost and Availability

On cost and where the turkeys are sold:

  • Jennie-O focuses more on grocery stores like Safeway, Harris Teeter, etc.
  • Butterball has strong supply deals with mega-retailers like Walmart, Target, and Kroger.
  • On average Butterball costs $5-$8 less per turkey than Jennie-O.
  • Jennie-O heritage turkeys can run $15-$20 more than standard Butterball.
  • Both brands supply turkeys sized from 10 to 30+ pounds.

Butterball clearly wins on cost and retail availability. Locking down Walmart and other national chains gives Butterball an edge in shopper convenience and promoted holiday pricing. Average per-pound cost is also lower for basic Butterball birds vs. Jennie-O.

Nutritional Value

The nutrition facts are fairly similar for Jennie-O and Butterball turkeys:

Nutrition Facts Per 3oz Serving Jennie-O Turkey Butterball Turkey
Calories 120 110
Fat 3g 2.5g
Sodium 65mg 65mg
Protein 21g 22g

Both brands are low in fat and calories while providing ample lean protein. Jennie-O edges out Butterball slightly in protein content. But overall the nutritional value is comparable between the two turkey giants.

Food Safety Record

When it comes to important food safety standards:

  • Both Jennie-O and Butterball have rigorous safety practices during processing.
  • All facilities follow strict USDA and FDA regulations.
  • Butterball has been involved in more recalls over the past 5 years.
  • Recent recalls have been limited in scope and not widespread.
  • Both comply fully with any identified safety issues.
  • Overall both brands have good safety reputations.

While Butterball has faced a few more isolated recalls recently, both brands maintain excellent food safety records overall. There are no major red flags or concerns around either Jennie-O or Butterball turkey in terms of health and contamination risks. Both adhere to the highest standards for processed poultry.

Conclusion

In summary, when comparing Jennie-O and Butterball turkeys:

  • Both brands are leaders in quality, taste, and food safety.
  • Jennie-O offers a wider range of turkey types including heritage breeds.
  • Butterball dominates in availability and promoted pricing at major retailers.
  • Butterball focuses more on lower-stress NAE birds.
  • Jennie-O has a certified organic turkey line.
  • Either brand is an excellent choice for a juicy, delicious holiday centerpiece.

The brand you choose may come down to taste preferences, budget, and what is conveniently available at your local grocery store. For shoppers wanting classic, affordable Butterball turkeys, you can’t go wrong picking one up at Walmart for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. If you want more unique flavor, the freedom of heritage breeds, or certified organic, then Jennie-O is an excellent option. Both deliver satisfying turkey taste and quality.