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British premium turkey brand wins USDA approval

Essex-based KellyBronze Turkeys has announced a major milestone in its plans to expand in the United States – a full USDA slaughtering licence for its Virginia processing plant.

It means principally that turkeys can be marketed across the States, where in previous years the company has been restricted to retailing birds only in Virginia.

But it has not been a straightforward process – the KellyBronze processing plant is the only one officially licensed in the US for dry plucked and hung turkeys.

“We’re targeting those discerning consumers who want something very special, and genuinely better, for their Thanksgiving dinner." Photo: Kellybronze
“We’re targeting those discerning consumers who want something very special, and genuinely better, for their Thanksgiving dinner." Photo: Kellybronze

USDA approval

“The USDA has been very helpful and has had to make many waivers to allow the dry plucking and hanging process to get USDA approval,” said Paul Kelly, managing director of Kelly Turkeys. His partner in the business, former Cobb Judd Culver, spent a huge amount of time and effort to achieve this status.

The Kelly family first began developing a US business 4 years ago, with an initial £1.8m investment in a small farm and processing facility in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains in Virginia.

Thanksgiving dinner

They have since steadily expanded the business, and expect to sell more than 2,000 turkeys this Thanksgiving. Birds market for USD$10/lb, compared with the more usual 1$/lb spent on conventional frozen bird in the States.

“People there say to me ‘Get over it. No matter how good yours are, they’re not going to sell here’, said Mr Kelly.

“We have already proved that wrong, albeit in a small way so far. But I do believe that when sales of fine wine and champagne go through the roof at Thanksgiving and when 60 million turkeys are sold, there is a real niche for our KellyBronze.

“We’re targeting those discerning consumers who want something very special, and genuinely better, for their Thanksgiving dinner.

“This is a big challenge that will have its highs and lows, but it will also be great fun. We are starting from scratch - as we did with the bronze turkey in the UK 35 years ago. The only difference is that now we have a bit of money and know what to do!”

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