Whole turkey sales at Christmas are now holding their own following a swing in recent years to crowns and breast joints being sold at major retailers, according to one of the UK’s largest producers.
Paul Kelly, managing director of Farmgate Hatcheries, said the swing to crowns and breast joints seems to have at least slowed and potentially stopped.
Writing in his annual newsletter to poult customers, Mr Kelly said Kelly Turkeys’ own farmgate sales at Danbury, Essex, showed 72% sold as whole birds and 28% as crowns or joints.
“Our retail sales have stayed at these percentages for the past 4 years – but in the major retailers it has been the opposite. My gut feeling is they do not promote the whole birds as the obvious choice, and it gets lost in the plethora of crowns and joints.”
Mr Kelly said it was important that traditional turkey producers did not ignore the market for added-value products.
“This is a market you must get into in order to satisfy demand – and it is very profitable. Crowns and joints were averaging about £16/kg at retail last year.”
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Whole bird sales to butchers held up well, but he warned about the dangers of imported turkey “butterflies” that were cheap and continued to hinder sales of traditional British birds.
Mr Kelly suggested farmers ordering poults this year should buy 33% as-hatched and 66% sexed hens to give a spread of weights to supply most order books.
Small breed stages deliver better eating quality than large strain hens, which are bred for very lean meat and have bigger muscle fibres that tend to be drier and flakier when eating, he suggested.
After a price reduction in 2015 and no increase in 2016, poult prices at Farmgate Hatcheries are rising by 3-5% to take account of the 10% higher feed costs, wage rises for season workers and general inflation.
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With the sales period consolidating into a shorter season and the need for more breeding stock to supply the peak weeks, special rates are available for larger orders in May and September.
The UK consumes approximately 10 million turkeys with 76% of families serving roast turkey as a the centre piece of their festive meal at Christmas.
Turkey is a relative newcomer to the Christmas – it was seen as a luxury right up until the 1950s when they became more widely available.