Swift & Co. has come up with a wise innovation in the frozen turkey market -- a frozen breast of turkey for those who like only white meat. But the Butterball Boneless Breast of Turkey -- which contains 15 percent "moistness enhancers" such as turkey broth and oil, not butter -- also gives consumers something they may not want: 9 1/2 ounces of gravy and string netting at turkey prices.
At a suburban Giant store, the turkey was selling for $2.69 per pound. Once the gravy and heavy netting were subtracted from a 2.88-pound package selling for $7.75, the consumer actually was paying $3.38 per pound for turkey meat.
An eight-ounce packet of reconstituted gravy is hidden inside the package. Although the label states "With Gravy Packet," it is not dry ingredients that you mix yourself with water, but already prepared gravy, the chief ingredient of which is water. One side of the hang tag that carries the price has a small notation stating "including 8 oz. gravy," but the tag directs stores to put all price information on the reverse.
Nancy Rodriguez, a spokesman at the "Butterball Turkey Hotline" in Oakbrook, Ill., said the company assumed that buyers know that a gravy packet contains water. "Frankly, reconstituted is a new word to me," Rodriguez said. She said the product and label were developed in March, 1984.
"The majority of people we interviewed liked the convenience of having ready-made gravy," she said. The heavy netting is needed "for safety" to hold the turkey meat together, she said, noting that the package of breast meat also contains wing meat.
"The intent was not to defraud," she said. "Water is listed as the primary ingredient in the gravy. It's convenience."