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British turkey industry needs a national voice

The turkey needs a national voice to help safeguard the future of British turkey production, says Paul Kelly, managing director of FarmGate Hatcheries which supply around half of the poults reared for Christmas.


“The British turkey market has declined dramatically from a peak of 46 million birds in 1996 to 13 million today, primarily attributed to the influx of cheap, intensively reared imports. Many of these would not meet the welfare standards required in this country.


“The turkey industry used to have big funds to promote itself when the large turkey companies were thriving and making money,” said Mr Kelly in his seasonal newsletter to poult customers.  “Things are very different now. There is no money available anymore.


“As a whole, turkey farmers have strength in numbers but we are not pulling together to fund a national generic campaign to support the ‘Great British Turkey’ from your British farm.”


As an initial move he is urging farmers attending the British Pig & Poultry Fair this week to join the Anglian Turkey Association or, if a member of the NFU, to get involved in their turkey meetings.


Looking back to last year he said Christmas turned out to be better year than most people had predicted. “The cost-of-living crisis was playing on everyone’s mind, but actually it did not seem to impact sales of turkeys. Our own retail sales did see a reduction in whole birds but a shift of 8 percent into crowns and joints as these are at lower price points.”


He is looking at the potential to offer smaller turkeys at Christmas.  In 2022 when they

processed earlier in 2022 because of bird flu, they had lots of 3kg birds that sold very well.


“These were not available in 2023, so entry price points for the whole bird were considerably higher. We do sell out of the few 2 to 3 kg turkeys we have every year. So how do we make small turkeys profitable? That’s something we’re working on!”


He said supermarkets had a very good sell through of turkey with very little if any wastage, but standard fresh turkeys were discounted heavily and a loss leader for nearly all retailers.


Poult customers will face a modest 3.3 percent increase in prices with falls in feed and energy prices helping to cushion the rise but labour costs up by more than 10 percent owing to the rise in the national minimum wage.


Note for Editors:  Paul Kelly will be available on the Kelly Turkeys stand (12 – 878)  at the British Pig + Poultry Fair on May 15/16.