Paul Kelly managing director of Kelly's Turkeys in the UK, gives his view on why whole turkey is the "best value for money". Would you agree?
Farmgate turkey sales in the UK are based on the traditional whole bird – a sector that has been steadily losing market share to value added turkey. Market data suggests that around 40% of turkey units sold at Christmas are whole birds. Around 30 years ago it was 95%.
The turkey ‘crown’ – introduced by the industry as a great way of using up its second grade carcasses – has been gaining market share. Retailers liked them as they were something new and give consumers a low waste, all-white-meat offer. Yes, they are all white meat but they are certainly not low waste. The waste is simply left in the processing plant.
When faced with a consumer ordering a crown, I ask “Do you realise for the same amount of money they can buy a whole bird and get all of the legs and dark meat pretty much for free.” Most of the time they change their mind and buy a whole bird.
The problem for whole bird sales is compounded even further by the retailer’s appetite for more and more value added products. This is driven by the desire to give the consumer more and more choice in the belief that the consumer wants more choice, as well as competing with the offers from other retailers.
Last Christmas it took me 45 minutes to try and get my head around all the different variants of turkey on the shelves of one major UK retailer. There were 26 different turkey offers, varying from a standard whole turkey through to a latticed stuffed joint. Even I was confused! As the French saying has it: “Trop de choix tue le choix” (too much choice kills the choice). Too many options means too much effort to make a sensible decision.
The whole bird makes absolute sense for both the producer and consumer. It’s a ‘win / win no brainer’! The wins for the consumer are: a traditional centrepiece for the Christmas table, better value for money, turkey cooked on the bone delivers a better eating experience, a dark and white meat offer. The wins for the producer are: much easier and quicker processing and planning, lower production costs, better shelf life and less waste.
It may sound flippant for me to suggest that as an industry we should not be spending all our resources innovating new ways of presenting Christmas turkey. We should instead be more focused on innovations that ensure the cooking times and the breeds used for whole roast turkey provide a delicious meal.
Our business has focused on this for many years and it is, I believe, one of the main reasons why our sales increase year on year and why we maintain whole bird volumes – 72% of our retail sales are whole bird. The whole roast turkey delivers the best value for money, provides by far the best centrepiece and, when cooked as it should be, by far the best taste. This is the message the farmgate sector – and indeed the turkey industry as a whole – need to be communicating to the consumer.