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Shopping for Turkey Across Costa Rica

In recent turkey news, two of the world’s largest producers, Butterball and CarolinaTurkey, merged at the beginning of October. This means CarolinaTurkey (now Butterball) will process 1.5 billion pounds of turkey per year.

Carolina Turkeys, which have come to Costa Rican groceries from the millionsquare- foot North Carolina factory for two years now, will continue to be the favored whole-bird import, said export sales manager Scott Singleton.

Some 70 metric tons of Carolina/Butterball meat just cleared Costa Rican customs: There’ll be plenty to go around for U.S. expats with a late November craving for Meleagris gallopavo, though Singleton said the biggest Central American turkey run is January through March, as opposed to the November-through-December turkey season in the United States.

One of CarolinaTurkey’s main customers here, AutoMercado supermarkets, plans to import more than 10,000 kilograms this holiday season, according to meat department coordinator Delmar Jaen.

Holiday season might be Christmas and New Year’s for Costa Ricans, but for 50,000 U.S. citizens here, it starts Nov. 23 with Thanksgiving, a fact not lost on the major supermarkets.

Imported turkeys are also found in Megasuper and Perimercados supermarkets; in the Wal-Mart-owned groceries, Más x Menos,Hipermás,Maxibodega and Palí; and at PriceSmart membership clubs.

Many of these stores also carry Pavilandia brand turkeys, which are imported as poults (chicks) from the United States and raised on a farm in Alajuela, northwest of San José. The other main competitor is As de Oros, the turkey division of Pipasa, a Costa Rican chicken company. As de Oros turkeys, which grow up in Costa Rica, come from the United States when they’re one day old.

Here’s our shopping advice for Thanksgiving dinner around Costa Rica:

Central Valley

In the San José area, all the stores mentioned above are quite accessible and should carry both turkey and trimmings. Other options are the Muñoz y Nanne supermarket in San Pedro, east of San José, and Carnes Don Fernando, with three area locations.

Muñoz y Nanne (253-4646) had about 40 “American” birds at the start of November, each of them about 8 kilograms and selling for ¢3,433 (about $6.50) per kilogram, or cooked up with stuffing for ¢5,400 (about $10.50) per kilo. The meat department says to call to reserve one.

Carnes Don Fernando, known for its homegrown organic beef, is stocking Pavilandia birds this year; call for prices and to reserve a frozen or precooked turkey: 289-9165 (Escazú), 282-0181 (Santa Ana), 271-3334 (Curridabat). The store is holding a Thanksgiving raffle – if you spend more than ¢10,000 (about $19.50), you might win a turkey for a person you designate.

PriceSmart, a $30-per-year membership club with four Costa Rican outlets, sells 6.8-kilogram Honeysuckle White brand turkeys for ¢16,995 (about $33). They also sell baking trays, stuffing mixes, cranberry sauce, nuts, pie fillings, instant potatoes and stuffing mixes.

AutoMercado, a specialist in imported foods, recently added a store near Jacó, on the central Pacific coast, and was set to open one in the western San José suburb of Escazú Nov. 15, bringing the total to 10 stores nationwide. Besides turkey, which they’ll sell in various forms and packages, AutoMercado will offer sweet potatoes, stuffing, instant mashed potatoes, pie fillings and turkey roasting bags. Company representatives said each store will put together Thanksgiving combo packs, with samples of the above-mentioned hits. At the end of October, the AutoMercado in downtown San José had whole pumpkins for ¢4,125 (about $8) and Pavilandia turkeys for ¢2,430 (about $4.75) per kilo. Carolina Turkeys will be slightly more expensive.

Many stores in the Wal-Mart line said they’d have turkey mid-November. Maxibodega, for example, said it would have Carolina Turkeys Nov. 10 for about ¢2,500 (about $5) a kilogram, slightly more for a precooked version, and ¢3,595 (about $7) a kilogram for a smoke-roasted turkey. Average weight is 7 kilograms.

Pipasa chicken agencies (check the yellow pages under “Pollo”) might have turkeys at the end of November, but they’re more likely to start stocking them in December.

Ground turkey is generally available, if you feel like molding it into the shape of a Thanksgiving bird…

Northern Pacific (Guanacaste)

The Thanksgiving hub around Playas del Coco, in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, is Supermercado Luperón (670-1197). Sign up for turkeys with Susan Fletcher in the gourmet shop; this year she hopes to sell 100 Pavilandia and imported turkeys. Everyone in Playas del Coco celebrates Thanksgiving, Fletcher said. Some folks told her they went to San José looking for the essential supplies last year, not realizing she stocks turkeys, pumpkin pie filling, yams, marshmallows, sage, commercial stuffing mixes and cranberries – sometimes even fresh cranberries.

Down the beach in Playa Flamingo, there’s a chance that Automart (654-4082) will have turkeys by Thanksgiving, if they get their freezer fixed.

In Tamarindo, Supermercado Tamarindo (653-1072) will provide turkeys for those who request them in advance – freezer space is at a premium. Super 2001 is another Tamarindo option; call in advance (653-0935).

Central Pacific (Puntarenas)

Around Jacó, try Más x Menos (643-3027) or the new AutoMercado (637-8440). In Quepos, Super Más (777-1162) said they have or can get turkeys, stuffing mixes, gravy mixes, applesauce, turkey basters, pumpkin pie filling and other basics. Carolina Turkeys are going for ¢2,950 (about $5.75) a kilogram. Mini Price Store (356-2063, is another local option – owner Emilio Morales can get anything you can get at PriceSmart, and stocks 7-8 kilogram Honeysuckle Whites.

Super Jordix (777-4036) can get turkeys, but might need advance notice.

North-Central Region

In the crossroads town of Ciudad Quesada (San Carlos), the best bet might be Maxibodega (461-1333), whose meat department said they’ll have frozen or roasted turkey by mid-November.

Southern Caribbean

In Limón, try Maxibodega (758-1245), Más x Menos (798-0070) or the Pipasa agency (758-3536).

Puerto Viejo’s Pirriplí store (828-1251) said it would have turkey in time for Thanksgiving.



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