Beware: Turkey Can Contain Gluten!

Holiday dinners are the most anticipated meals of the year – and often the star of these dinners is the turkey. Besides making sure that you buy the right sized bird, have a roast pan big enough, and cook it to juicy and moist perfection, what some folks don’t realize is that many turkeys often contain gluten! How can that be? How does a turkey become full of gluten?

The answer is that many turkeys are “basted” or “self basted” this means that a solution usually containing butter, edible fat, broth, stock, water, flavor enhancers or seasoning has been added to the turkey.  This solution is often full of gluten!

A few very basic tips on cooking a gluten free turkey is to make sure that you never stuff a bird with a stuffing that is not gluten free. By putting the stuffing in the bird gluten contaminates the whole turkey. Also, never use the gravy packet that comes with the turkey – almost all contain gluten. Lastly, make sure that the spices you put on the turkey are also free of gluten – if in question, simply season with salt and pepper.

The staff at BeFreeForMe rolled up their sleeves and gobbled up the task of calling the members of the National Turkey Federation and explored numerous websites to determine which turkeys were free of gluten. Let’s talk turkey… here is what we found out:

After calling the Butterball hotline (1-800-BUTTERBALL) the consumer relations department told us that all of the Butterball fresh and frozen whole turkeys are gluten free with the exception of the Mesquite Turkey Breast Roast. However, their pre-stuffed birds are not gluten free and the gravy packets are not gluten free either.

Shady Brook Farms:
According to the Shady Brook Farm website the following turkeys are gluten free:

Simply Done Whole Young Turkey
Simply Done Bone-In Turkey Breast
Frozen Whole Turkey
Frozen Bone-in Turkey Breast
Fresh Whole Turkey
Fresh Hotel-Style Bone-in Turkey Breast
Fresh Bone-in Turkey Breast

Honeysuckle White:
According to the Honey Suckle White website the following turkeys are gluten free:

All Natural Whole Turkey
Simply Done Whole Turkey
Frozen Whole Turkey
Fresh Bone-in Turkey Breast
Fresh Whole Turkey

Organic Prairie
As well as being organic, the Whole Young Turkey, small (10-14 lbs.), and large (14-18 lbs.) from Organic Prairie are also gluten free.

Foster Farms:
According to the Foster Farm website their fresh natural turkeys are gluten free.

Jaindl Brand Turkeys: 800-475-6654
The following brands of whole turkeys are processed by Jaindl and are all gluten free according to their Customer Service department:

– Grand Champion (Fun Fact: According to Jaindl they serve this turkey at the White House!)
– Blue Ribbon
– Harvest
– Smoked Jaindl

Jennie-O: 800-328-1756
The Jennie-O website has a long list of gluten free products, but below is a sampling of the turkeys that are gluten free:
– Jennie-O Turkey Store prime young turkey: fresh or frozen (Note: the gravy packet DOES contain gluten)
– Jennie-O Turkey Store oven ready turkey: Home style, Garlic & Herb
– Jennie-O Turkey Store oven ready turkey breast (the gravy packet DOES contain gluten)
– Jennie-O Turkey Store frozen turkey breast (the gravy packet DOES contain gluten)

According to the Norbest website they state the following: We are very aware of gluten intolerance in the form of celiac sprue disease. All of our turkey products are completely free of gluten from wheat, barley, rye, oats, or their derivatives.

Perdue Farms: 1-800-4PERDUE
According to the Perdue website many Perdue products are free of gluten. Perdue chickens, chicken parts, and turkeys are all gluten-free. These are sold fresh as well as frozen and some are flavored with seasonings.

Plainville Farms: 800-724-0206
According to Customer Service all Plainville Farms turkeys are gluten free. They are also vegetarian fed.

Michigan Turkey Producers:
According to the Marketing Department at the Michigan Turkey Producers, we learned that anything that is labeled with “Michigan Turkey Producers” is gluten free. This includes their Golden Legacy Brand of turkeys, and many private label brands.

Turkey Valley Farms:
According to Customer Service the Turkey Valley Farms brand and the Holden Farms brand are both gluten free.

Zackys: 800-888-0235
According to Zacky’s customer service, all fresh and frozen turkeys under the Zacky’s name are gluten free.


7 Responses to “Beware: Turkey Can Contain Gluten!”

  1. Grace Says:

    I have NEVER found a turkey that contains gluten in the basting solution, only in the gravy or the stuffing. Can you cite an example of one that causes you to say “This solution is often full of gluten!” My point is that, although it might have been true in the past, I believe this is not a true statement anymore.
    Thank you.

  2. Kathleen Reale Says:

    Grace –
    Thanks for your posting! Any turkey that would contain gluten would come from the basting solution. Our research found that some manufacturers also could not guarantee their own brands or private label brands of basted turkeys as being processed without gluten.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Be Free!

  3. Ludena radford Says:

    how do we check to see if the seasonings in the self basting turkeys are gluten free–in the past I have eaten products said to be gluten free (not labeled) -had a reaction- then find out the seasonings had gluten but the company doesn’t have to list the gluten added to seasonings bought from other companies and many don’t know what is in 3rd party seasonings
    Is this still true or are companies required to list ingredients in 3rd party seasonings

  4. Kathleen Reale Says:


    It is my understanding that any food manufacturer is required to list ALL ingredients regardless if they come from a 3rd party or not. However, gluten and other allergens can be hidden in these listed ingredients such as “spices, flavoring” – so beware!

    My suggestion would be to confirm any product’s ingredients as being gluten free direct from the manufacturers. We confirmed the gluten free status of these turkeys by contacting the manufacturers or checking the corporate websites. Hope this helps!

    Be Free!

  5. carol Says:

    A response to Grace’s note about, suggesting that turkey based with gluten is a thing of the past. NOT SO! Shopping for a gluten-free turkey this past holiday (Nov 2013) was a shock! In my local grocery (Pick n Save) , I could find only one brand of frozen turkey breast that did NOT have wheat in the basting solution. Jennie-O and Butterball both listed wheat in the basting solution. And none of the whole turkeys in the frozen section were wheat free. BUYER BEWARE!!

  6. holly Says:

    Are the Foster Farms whole chickens gluten-free? Or are they injected with gluten as well?

  7. Kathleen Reale Says:

    Yes they are gluten free! I just contacted Foster Farms directly and this is the reply I got back:

    Thank you for taking the time to contact our Foster Farms Consumer Affairs Department. Our fresh whole young chickens are gluten free.

    Vickie Medeiros
    Consumer Affairs Representative

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