It is a common misconception that all pink turkey meat is unsafe due to being undercooked (and that is often the case). However, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), smoked turkey can sometimes turn pink. Turkey should be maintained at a temperature of 165°F after cooking. The color of turkey meat is determined by the presence of a protein called myoglobin. Since this pigment is present in low levels in turkey, the meat tends to be white. Older turkeys tend to have more myoglobin; however, most market turkeys are only 4-5 months old. Therefore, some young turkeys can have a pink pigment when cooked in the oven. Muscles such as the legs receive the most movement, so the oxygen in the myoglobin of the legs causes more pigment and thus darker meat. Another exception to the “pink is undercooked” rule is nitrites. This substance found in feed and water sometimes causes the meat to be pink. Turkeys with less fat to shield the skin from the heat of the oven will also sometimes have a pink tinge. Finally, grilled turkey can sometimes turn pink.
When choosing fresh, organic turkey in Knoxville, Tennessee, a good place to start is Earthfare in Bearden or in Turkey Creek. Earthfare offers turkey meat from Hickory Nut Gap Farm in Fairview, North Carolina. These turkeys were raised on pastures where the turkeys roamed free. Humanely raised, these gobblers had shelter to hide under whenever they wanted to escape the heat, rain, or cold and also enjoyed fresh grass, bugs, and grain every day.
Hickory Nut Gap Farm is located on 57 Sugar Hollow Road, Fairview, NC 28730. For more information, contact Steve Howard at 828-628-1027. Earthfare in Bearden is located on 140 N. Forest park Boulevard, Knoxville, TN 37919. The phone number is 865-558-1432. Earthfare in Turkey Creek is located on 10903 Parkside Drive, Knoxville, TN 37934. The phone number is 865-777-3837.