Shady Brook Farms and Butterball are both high-quality turkey brands, which is important to know when it comes to choosing the right one in the sea of different turkeys. There are many brands on the market, but not many of them are available off-holiday season. While writing this piece, it surprised me how similar their brand policies are, but the two still have some significant distinctions. So, what are the differences between Shady Brook Farms and Butterball turkeys, and which is better?
Shady Brook Farms Turkey is infused with broth and natural aromas, while Butterball has regular saline solution brine and spices. What’s more, the former has more proteins per lb because the birds eat natural bug proteins. Butterball has the best packaging, but it’s pricier.
Turkey is a big bird and a big deal; plus, holiday dinners require special preparations. I always start thinking about it a few months in advance, as choosing the right bird is the first step to the perfect Thanksgiving turkey meal. Read on to break down everything you have to know!
Taste and Texture
Both brands pre-brine their turkeys, so they are salty to start with. That’s why you should be careful when adding additional salt when seasoning before baking. They are boosted with a solution of water and salt, Butterball has spices, too, to enhance the flavor. Moreover, Shady Brook’s has turkey broth, sugar, and natural flavoring.
Spices don’t give much of the flavor, to be honest, so you’ll have to season it thoroughly – I use loads of herbs. Natural flavorings in Shady Brook are celery and rosemary, so I love to season the meat with fresh branches to infuse more flavor. Shady Brook’s turkey cooked right has a bit fuller taste, though, which could be because of the bouillon intensifying the meaty relish.
Still, you can make Butterball turkey delicious, too. When it comes to texture, both birds are nothing less than juicy, tender, and succulent. Butterball and Shady Brook turkeys can sometimes maybe taste a bit watery due to the high concentration of brine.
That can all be altered with the right herbs, spices, and glaze! When baked right, they will have a melt-in-mouth texture, and you can easily dig in using a fork only!
Both companies offer fine-quality meat! It’s a lean protein that is tricky to prepare, so pre-brining is their advantage. Turkey meat is packed with protein and poor in fat – in 4 oz of Butterball turkey, there are 21 grams of proteins, and 26 grams in Shady Brook’s. It’s important to note that there are no saturated fats in either of them.  
Butterball turkeys are cage-free but not free-range, which means they don’t have excess to the outside world every day. They roam freely, though, but in the barns and eat grains with animal protein. On the other hand, Shady Brook’s turkeys are pastured – fresh grass and bugs fed, which are natural proteins.  
Of course, they eat corn and soybean, as well. In terms of quality, Shady Brook Farms wins the contest here just because of feeding methods. Fresh grass makes the meat moister, and bugs are making it more protein-rich.
I also noticed that the quality of the meat decreases the longer it sits in the freezer. Of course, the fresh ones have the best taste, and the ones frozen for too long are kind of watery and bland.
Shady Brook Farms turkeys have signature red labels and different packaging for frozen and fresh meat. The fresh bird is wrapped in a white and golden cover, while the frozen one is grayish and has a backdrop picture of the farm. Butterball turkey, on the other side, has totally different color palette – blue, yellow, and green.
It’s made for quick removal with the pull-apart method. Shady Brook packs poultry giblets into plastic or paper bags you have to remove before cooking. Butterball also packs the giblets the same, but their bags are cook-proof, which is a handy option.
Both companies responsibly use antibiotics and only when needed in the healing process. There is also a period that needs to pass for the turkey to digest the antibiotics, so they can be considered antibiotics-free. So, both brands label the birds antibiotic-free, which is true, but it doesn’t mean they never took them.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) forbids the existence of any drugs in the system, so it’s nothing special, just a good eye-catch. Also, “no hormones and steroids” is pretty much an unnecessary title, as, once again, those are absolutely banned! These phrases can be misleading sometimes, so it’s good to know what you’re actually buying.  
Butterball turkeys have American Humane Certificate, which claims that animals are treated well and have solid conditions to grow in. Shady Brook Farms follow USDA requirements for animal welfare which are annually updated. These things are the reason why I always go for brands like this – they promise the right treatment of birds, and that’s very important!  
And here you can see what a day in the life of a Butterball turkey farm looks like:
Butterball turkeys are probably the most expensive in the market due to the company’s long tradition. The average price per lb is $1.49, while Shady Brook Farms turkey costs 98 cents per lb. You can find both on sale, though, when Thanksgiving season kicks in, but Butterball never goes under 99 cents!
Both brands are available all year round, but not in every store, though. They have similar sites; thus, you can search their respective engines for the nearest store. The best thing is you can see the availability of different products there, as well.
You can order Shady Brook Farms turkeys over Instacart, which is already connected to their site. Instacart and Door Dash will deliver you Butterball turkeys, plus you can buy them everywhere. In season both brands are on the shelves of Walmart, Costco, Aldi, and many other supermarkets, but off season – check out the big ones!
Which Is Better, Shady Brook Farms or Butterball Turkey?
As you can see, these brands are very similar, but there are some differences which count. The first one is, of course, meat quality, where Shady Brook is superior. Their turkeys are pastured and have 5 grams more protein per lb than Butterball turkeys.
Also, Shady Brook Farms is significantly cheaper, so you have a better price-quality ratio. Both of them serve bombastic labels – no hormones, no additives, no steroids – and I don’t like this– it’s a law, not something they are special in! Butterball turkeys have better packaging, though, making them much easier to handle.
To conclude, even though I buy turkey from both brands on the regular basis, after this research, I would reach for Shady Brook Farms over Butterball! What about you? Let me know in the comments below!