Utah growers are hoping that when backyard cooks fire up the grill this season, they’ll be thinking turkey.
Norbest, the marketing cooperative of 43 independent farmers, has introduced a marinated turkey fillet that can be broiled or grilled.
The fillet is a boneless, skinless sliced turkey breast, basted in a marinade that can be cooked in 10 minutes.
Sales have doubled over the past year, and farmers are hoping that someday summertime may draw be as big a draw for turkey aficionados as are the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
For diehard fans of the Norbest brand, the marinated fillets are what’s long been known as Sanpete barbecue turkey.
In central Utah, cafe regulars can spot out-of-towners when they don’t order mayonnaise, tomatoes or other condiments on a hot Sanpete barbecue turkey sandwich — because there’s no BBQ sauce for it.
In short, barbecue turkey means the grill, not the sauce.
For years, children in Sanpete County have grown up eating turkey marinated with lemon-lime soda, soy sauce, garlic and horseradish. And for years, tens of thousands of visitors have wolfed down Sanpete BBQ turkey dinners during the annual Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti.
Three years ago, the Moroni Feed Cooperative developed its own Sanpete BBQ turkey, cut into steak-sized pieces and marketed under the Norbest label.
“It’s been around for as long as anybody could remember in Sanpete County, but it’s still kind of a secret along the Wasatch Front,” said Norbest’s Miles Nielsen. “We decided to market the new product because people were driving down to the Moroni store to pick up the marinated turkeys. It’s one of the biggest-selling items in the store.”
The company also has been giving out samples at tailgating parties at University of Utah football games and at booths set up at Brigham Young University.
The fillets are sold in the freezer section at many Associated Food stores, such as Harmons, Dan’s and Macey’s.
Sanpete BBQ turkey marinade
2 parts 7-Up
1 part soy sauce
1/4 part vegetable oil
Garlic powder to taste
Horseradish if desired
Marinate six to 12 hours or longer.
Where • 300 W. 300 South, Moroni
Hours • 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday; closed Sunday
Products • Norbest turkey products, all varieties, including whole-meat roasts, deli breasts and marinated turkey
Native grown • Explorers Christopher Columbus and Hernando Cortez acquired a taste for turkey in the Western Hemisphere and both took some back to Europe.
Old Country • By 1530, domesticated turkeys were being raised in Italy, France and England. When the Pilgrims and other settlers arrived on American shores, they already were familiar with eating turkey.
Top producers • Minnesota, North Carolina and Arkansas reign (Utah ranks 16th).
Consumption up • Annual per-capita turkey consumption has been about 17-18 pounds since the 1990s, up from the average 8.2 pounds Americans ate in 1970.
Best customers • Californians are the nation’s biggest turkey eaters, consuming three more pounds of turkey than most Americans. The typical Israeli eats more than 22 pounds of turkey annually, largely because red-meat production is limited and expensive.
Source: Moroni Feed Co.