Turkey Ham is a Thing and We Don't Know Why

Imagine you're going to a friend's house for Thanksgiving for the first time. You're bringing a delicious side and were reassured the main course would be provided. All hyped up to enjoy your favorite part of the traditional holiday bird — the turkey breast — you arrive, only to find that your friend has instead prepared turkey ham for the shared dinner.

That's right — turkey ham. It's a real thing, and something you may or may not have spotted in the deli aisle in the past. We don't know why it's a thing, but it exists, so let's explore this lunch meat monstrosity before you potentially run into it at a gathering with no proper warning.

What Is Turkey Ham, Exactly?

This tasty turkey product is a delightful little boneless, ready-to-eat lunch meat product first made by JENNIE-O. It is now produced by other companies as well, including Oscar Mayer, Butterball, and Cargill.

The official description of the deli product on JENNIE-O's company website reads:

JENNIE-O® Turkey Ham is the ideal choice for flavor and versatility. Try it for breakfast egg bakes or ham and cheese strata; prepare lunchtime favorites when slicing it for sandwiches or dicing it for salads. Find it in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.

And while that's helpful, it's still not totally clear to us at first glance what turkey ham is.

While pork ham is made from the cured leg of pork, this lunch meat is made with turkey thigh meat as well as a "portion of ground turkey thigh trim added." It also contains water, modified food starch, dextrose, salt, carrageenan, sodium phosphate, sodium erythorbate, "natural smoke flavoring," (whatever that is!), and sodium nitrite.

Is Turkey Ham Healthy?

That's debatable. A little more research on the turkey breast product's website turns up some nutritional facts that allow you to answer that question for yourself.

According to the JENNIE-O site's nutrition facts for this unique lunch meat option, the serving size is 16 per container of turkey ham. There are 60 calories per serving, with total fat 3g, 30mg cholesterol, sodium 510mg, and saturated fat 1g.

The nutrition facts for this specific product lists total carbohydrate 2g per serving, with zero added sugars or total sugar. JENNIE-O's product also lists dietary fiber 0g and there's no calcium listed in the nutrition facts.

JENNIE-O's turkey ham nutrition guide lists protein 7g per serving size. That's 14 percent of your daily value, compared to the daily value of potassium in the deli meat, which stands at just 2 percent.

Is Turkey Ham Gluten-Free?

Butterball's website does not list its turkey ham as being gluten-free, but JENNIE-O's says it is.

Our general nutrition advice is that it's probably a good idea to do some research on whether the brand you have is gluten-free, and for other specific dietary needs or nutrition facts if gluten is an issue for you.

Now, who's headed to the grocery store to try out some turkey ham?

Watch: 16 Traditional, Easy Thanksgiving Sides with a Special Twist

This post was originally published on November 19, 2020.