Sensory Evaluation of Alternative Turkey Genotypes

2008 Annual Report for OS07-036

Project Type: On-Farm Research
Funds awarded in 2007: $14,962.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Grant Recipient: Appalachian State University
Region: Southern
State: Arkansas
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Anne Fanatico
Appalachian State University

Sensory Evaluation of Alternative Turkey Genotypes


Consumer interest is growing in specialty poultry products including free-range production and alternative turkey products, such as heritage. Heritage turkeys are slow-growing, naturally-mating turkeys and are typically raised with outdoor access. There is interest in sensory attributes of the meat, as well as conservation of livestock breeds/varieties. In a survey of consumer perceptions, consumers indicated that they largely buy specialty turkeys for personal health reasons (concerns about use of antibiotics or growth promotants, flavor/texture, concern about use of pesticides, and nutrients).

Objectives/Performance Targets

Determine consumer perception of specialty turkey


A consumer focus group was held to gather data and to allow consumers to sample several types of turkey meat including slow-growing heritage turkeys raised with outdoor access, fast-growing turkeys raised with outdoor access, and fast-growing turkeys raised indoors (a conventional, marinated product). Consumers with an interest in natural and local food were targeted by collaborating with a local food organization and outreach through natural food stores. Roasted breast and thigh meat were offered first as an appetizer and then as part of a holiday meal with locally-raised, seasonal ingredients at an upscale restaurant. An introductory session was held before the appetizer/meal to provide basic information and definitions on specialty turkeys.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The consumers (n=25) completed a 10-question survey. Of the participants, 96% had heard of free-range or organic turkeys, but only 44% had heard of heritage; 36% had purchased a specialty turkey in the past; 44% had not purchased due to lack of availability; and only 16% had not purchased due to cost. Reasons for buying or planning to buy a specialty turkey were ranked and weighted score analysis (lower number indicates higher importance) indicated top reasons: concerns about use of antibiotics or growth promotants (2.6), flavor/texture (2.7), concern about use of pesticides (3.0), and nutrients (3.9). Participants indicated they probably would (40%) or definitely would (24%) buy a specialty turkey in the future, and 68% would prefer to buy specialty turkey as whole carcasses rather than parts or further processed. A majority of the participants indicated they probably would (36%) or definitely would (40%) pay more for specialty turkey than conventional.

Results of this survey will be shared at a scientific meeting (Poultry Science Association annual meeting) in July 2009. An abstract has been published.

The turkey tasting event was an excellent opportunity for consumers to try several types of turkeys because specialty turkeys, although available on the internet, can be very expensive.


Casey Owens
Associate Professor
University of Arkansas
Center of Excellence for Poultry Science
1260 W. Maple St.
Fayetteville, AR 72701
Office Phone: 4795754281
Frank Reese
Good Shephard Farm
730 Smoky Valley Road
Lindsborg, KS 67456
Office Phone: 7852273972
Jean-Francois Meullenet
University of Arkansas
Department of Food Science
2650 N. Young Avenue
Fayetteville, AR 72704
Office Phone: 4792361926