Calling the Butterball hotline can save the day

November 27, 2022

Every Thanksgiving I am reminded of how much I miss talking about turkeys with my first- and second-graders from Beall Elementary School in Rockville, Md. Collectively, they produced a nonfiction book to share with their classmates.

The goal was for them to increase their English vocabulary and writing skills by answering questions: What do turkeys eat? Where do they live and sleep? Can they fly?

I used to impress my guests at the dinner table with my wealth of turkey knowledge. Did you know their faces turn red and blue when they are angry, and they have 5,000 to 6,000 feathers?

One night just before the holiday, when my friends Bud and Tina came to dinner, I asked, “Have you ever called the Butterball hotline? What questions do they get asked?”

We took turns speculating on the topic. Do you have to stuff the bird? Do you give the turkey a bath before you cook it? If a turkey falls out of the oven and slides across the kitchen floor, collecting cat hairs, can it still be served for dinner? (The answer is yes. This happened in our kitchen in 1962.)

On the Butterball website, you can learn, “It all began in 1981, when six home economists worked the phones that holiday season to answer about 11,000 turkey-cooking questions. Since then, the Turkey Talk-Line has grown, both in number of calls answered and experts responding. Open every November and December, our more than 50 experts answer more than 100,000 questions from households across the United States and Canada.”


In an article titled “9 most frequently asked questions at the Butterball hotline,” (, Nov. 16, 2020), Clark Shelton lists the top questions:

How do I thaw a turkey? What can I do to prevent a dry turkey? What type of thermometer do I buy? What are giblets? Are they gluten free? Do they have msg? What size do I buy? What is sell-by date? Does Butterball Turkey treat its turkey humanely?

The answers to the last two questions seem important. What is the sell-by date?

“As a general rule, you can keep your frozen turkey in the freezer in its original packaging for up to two years. Butterball uses the coding system known as the lot code system.” There is an explanation on their website explaining how to find the sell-by date.

Butterball says, “Animal care and well-being is central to Butterball. They lead the industry in animal care and well-being standards with ongoing efforts.”

I have never stressed over cooking a turkey.

I did make one mistake when I was first married, and my parents were coming to dinner. When I took the bird out of the refrigerator on Thanksgiving morning, it was still frozen. We ordered fried chicken from a local carry-out, enjoyed the side dishes, and my parents got to tease me for years.

The answers to the questions my students found in their research are: In the spring, turkeys eat leaves and grasses, and in the fall, they feed more on fruits, berries, seeds and insects.

Turkeys live in much of the eastern U.S. from the Canadian border to northern Florida and westward to the Mississippi River. Wild turkeys sleep in the branches of trees at night.

They can fly short distances at 40 to 50 miles an hour.

Lessons learned by everyone.

Since moving to Lewes, I have ordered fresh turkeys from Lloyd’s Market on Savannah Road, and they are always moist and delicious. And if you haven’t checked out this local market, you will be grateful and amazed at the quality, quantity and service this local store provides.

Hope you enjoy the holiday weekend!

Reach Lisa Graff at Find her on Facebook by searching Our Senior Yearbook; on Twitter @#lisajgraff1 and at her website,


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