Turkey emergency? This hotline could be your lifeline on Thanksgiving

Jay Cannon


Got turkey questions? Many Americans have plenty this year, and there’s a call center ready and waiting to help make Thanksgiving dinners a success. 

Just like every year since 1981, Butterball’s “Turkey Talk-Line” is up and running and already fielding calls, texts and emails about the latest turkey hurdles in households across the U.S. 

Because of the pandemic, the call center will be operating remotely for the first time in its 39-year history, according to Butterball Turkey Talk-Line supervisor Pam Barnes.

With smaller Thanksgiving celebrations being the norm in 2020, Barnes said the call center is receiving a lot of calls from first-time turkey cooks and many questions about what size turkey people should get. 

“Our advice is don’t be afraid to go big!” Barnes said.

Just make sure you’re able to store the food properly afterwards – roughly 200 million pounds of turkey are thrown out after Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving: How can you cut back on food waste this year?

So how can you get in contact with the turkey experts?

You can call the Turkey Talk-Line at 800-288-8372 (1-800-BUTTERBALL), send a text to 844-877-3456 or send an email, though Butterball warns that email responses could be delayed during peak holiday times. 

The hotline has evolved from relatively humble beginnings – just six people answered 11,000 phone calls in 1981 – to a call center of 50 people offering help in English and Spanish, per the company’s website.

Memorable calls

Butterball says it answers more than 100,000 questions every November and December. 

And however crazy you think your turkey problem might be, these folks have probably heard crazier. 

Here are a few memorable phone calls from over the years that Butterball has previously shared with USA TODAY:

  • A mother returned home from work to find her husband thawing a frozen turkey in the bathtub while simultaneously washing up the kids. “The kids were like, ‘The water’s cold!’ because, you know, it’s a frozen turkey,” Smith said.
  • A woman called the Talk-Line whispering her questions. When asked to speak up, the newlywed explained she was hiding in the closet from her mother-in-law, whom she was trying to impress.
  • A landlord called panicked because his oven was too small to cook a turkey. He eventually was able to “rent” one from a tenant for $25. He thought he’d have to interrupt them every 10 minutes to baste it, but called the Talk-Line to learn that Butterball turkeys come pre-basted.
  • A woman lost power one hour into cooking her turkey and called the Talk-Line. The hotline talked her through transferring her turkey to her gas grill to continue cooking. What accounted for the outage? The caller’s neighbor had crashed into a power line while hang gliding.

Of course, not all calls are that exciting. 

Among the most commonly received questions are how to choose a turkey, how to thaw a turkey, how to roast a turkey, how to check to see if a turkey is done and inquiries about alternative turkey-cooking methods, Barnes said.

Follow Jay Cannon of USA TODAY on Twitter: @JayTCannon

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