Additives are not allowed in fresh turkeys or those cut into parts. But turkeys that are injected with a basting solution, ground, canned, cured, smoked, dried or made into luncheon meats may have additives that must be listed on the ingredient label. Basted and self-basted turkeys may have approximately three percent solution added before processing, but it too must be listed on the label.
A free range or free roaming turkey producer must prove that the poultry had access to the outside before it can receive this label. Fresh turkeys have never been below 26 F. Poultry held below 0 F must be labeled frozen or previously frozen. If the label reads young turkey, it must be less than eight months of age.
Product dating is not required by federal regulations but most processors voluntarily date their packages. The sell-by date indicates how long to display the product for sale; the product should be purchased before the date expires. The best-if-used-by date is recommended for best flavor or quality but does not indicate safety. The use-by date is the last recommended date to use while at peak quality and is determined by the manufacturer. If the product is still wholesome, the retailer may legally sell the fresh or processed turkey beyond this expiration date.
Reference: USDA FSIS “Poultry Preparation” accessed from www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/turkey_from_farm_to_table/index.asp
Source: Sandra Bastin, Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist, University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture.