Historically, the turkey will be at the center of the plate for Thanksgiving dinner, but frankly, not everyone is a big fan of the “bird.” Some families will serve more than one animal protein while others may forget the “bird” altogether. After all, isn’t that the beauty of the U.S. agriculture? We have the freedom along with access to abundant, affordable food — something for which we should be especially thankful.
If your family is like ours, ham is a welcoming, mouth-watering alternative. We often serve many options with ham and turkey available for the special meal. In fact, ham is a popular choice for holiday feasts.
How does ham stack up to a turkey?
• Nutritional information: As documented by the USDA, a 3-ounce serving of ham packs 21 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, 15% of your daily value of zinc and 21% of your daily value for niacin with only 133 calories. A 3-ounce serving of the whole turkey contains 20-24 grams of proteins, 8 grams of fat, 8% of your daily value of niacin, 5% of your daily value of zinc with 170-190 calories (calories, protein and fat differ slightly depending on the dark or light meat). Zinc is an essential component of many enzymes that carry out your body’s functions, while niacin, or vitamin B-3, is essential for metabolizing fat and carbohydrates.
• It takes more bird: When serving boneless ham to a large family, you should figure half a pound per person. For turkey, experts say to plan on 1 to 2 pounds per person. So, it takes a much larger turkey compared to ham to feed the family.
• Thawing time: Using the cold water thawing method, it takes 30 minutes per pound of ham or turkey. For the thawing in the refrigerator, it takes approximately six hours for every pound of turkey while it takes four hours for ham.
• Cooking time: Pork Checkoff says a good rule of thumb for cooking fully cooked ham is 15 minutes for each pound at 350 degrees. For fully thawed turkey, it takes 15 minutes per pound for an unstuffed turkey, and 5-10 minutes longer if it is stuffed.
• Price: Overall, the retail price of meat and poultry is down from a year ago. According to the American Farm Bureau food survey, turkey is down 2 cents. Obviously, stores will drop the price of turkey and ham during the holiday season to entice consumers to shop at their stores. In a quick survey of store ads, whole ham and turkey were comparable at $1.60 to $1.89 per pound. The price is directly related to quality and brand.
• Taste: It comes down to your taste preference. The food experience is what keeps the consumer coming back to animal protein. Some see turkey as dry, stringy texture whereas others find it something they can’t do without on Thanksgiving. At the same time, maple-cured ham with apricot or cranberry glaze send many consumers returning to the ham for family holiday feasts year round.
At the end of the day, if you are not a fan of the “bird” then, by all means, don’t feel obligated to choke it down. Ham is more than comparable to turkey. There is no shame in not going through the traditional stuffing and early morning cooking of the bird. Like some homes, the leftover turkey just sits in the refrigerator until the next trash day. Thankfully, Americans have a choice due to the dedication and the hardwork of farmers and ranchers. Life is short, eat what you truly like.