New Heart-Smart Turkey Product Takes Wing

Anew product in grocery stores across Western Canada could mark a long-awaited breakthrough for turkey farmers seeking a market alternative to the traditional roast bird.

Granny’s Poultry recently launched a stuffed turkey breast roast that’s smaller, more convenient and easier to cook than a whole turkey.

And, as a bonus, it’s more wholesome, too.

The double-breast, bone-in, pre-stuffed roast is infused with flaxseed oil, high in omega-3 fatty acids which may reduce the risk of heart disease.

It’s the first of several heart-smart turkey products Granny’s hopes to roll out this year, according to Jason Wortzman, the new marketing and product development director for the farmer-owned poultry co-operative.

The low-fat, low-sodium roast meets the nutrient criteria for the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s health check program. This gives it the right to carry the Heart and Stroke “Health Check” logo.

Most important, it just simply tastes good, said Wortzman, a chef by training.

“It’s a beautifully juicy and tender product in the end, and part of that is from the infusion of the flaxseed oil.”

From a frozen state, the product is baked slowly in an oven for three hours. One roast serves six to eight people.

The omega-3-infused product began appearing recently in Safeway and independent retail stores across the West, said Wortzman.

Traditionally, turkey is a festive dish served roasted and whole on three main occasions: Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

Part of the reason it’s not served more often could be inconvenience. A whole turkey takes a long time to cook, it tends to dry out and there are usually leftovers.

By introducing its new product, Granny’s hopes to break that stereotype.

“We’re hoping at some point this won’t just be a holiday thing. This could be something that people could eat anytime,” Wortzman said.

“We’re hoping it might be the next Sunday roast item for people.”

Wortzman hesitated to describe other ready-made turkey products Granny’s will begin marketing as early as this summer. But they’ll include sausages, deli items and prepared cooked products, he allowed.

Granny’s Poultry is the only turkey processor in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

The co-op is also working on a longer-term project to introduce “heritage” turkeys to the market.

These are birds descended from wild turkeys historically found throughout the United States and even in Canada. They are smaller than domestic turkeys with smaller breasts, darker meat and a stronger flavour.

Several breeds are grown commercially in the U. S. and could be introduced here. Raised by designated producers, they could be sold as a branded product to specialty stores and high-end restaurants, much like Angus beef and Berkshire pork, said Wortzman.

CONSUMER INTEREST

Bill Uruski, Manitoba Turkey Producers’ chairman, described Granny’s new product as “one piece of the consumer interest puzzle.

“We hope that it will entice consumers to try further processed product rather than thinking of turkey as basically Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter,” said Uruski, a producer from Fisher Branch.

Manitoba Turkey Producers represents the province’s 51 commercial turkey farmers.

Turkey consumption in Canada has remained relatively flat in recent years, although the industry did increase its national quota allocation by 40 per cent between 2006 and 2008.

Grocery stores today carry ground turkey, turkey parts and turkey deli meat as well as the traditional whole bird.

But it’s a chicken (or turkey, if you prefer)-and-egg problem, said Uruski. Consumers don’t buy more turkey because they don’t see it in meat counters. Grocers don’t carry it because shoppers don’t ask for it, he said.

One solution may be different ways to cook turkey. For example, the lunch entree at the recent Manitoba Turkey Producers annual meeting was turkey cacciatore. Uruski said it was delicious. [email protected]

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