Growing turkeys to supply local wholesale markets and auctions at spot prices will do long-term harm to the traditional Christmas turkey sector, warns Paul Kelly, managing director of Kelly Turkeys, in his annual FarmGate Hatcheries newsletter.

“The local markets are normally used as dumping grounds for unsold turkeys which are often sold at very low prices and undermine the market,” says Kelly.

“Let us remember just one more time: local markets are useful but not if they are used by our customers to buy turkeys at discounted prices way below cost of production.

“The attraction of realizing the cash of a few left-over turkeys, at whatever cost, can be very expensive in the long term if your local customers realize they can go to the auction or market to buy your turkeys at discounted prices rather than buying direct from you.”

Kelly questions whether the major supermarkets are now providing such a wide choice that it confuses the consumer and also leads to fewer whole bird sales. Whole turkeys make up 80 percent of Kelly’s Christmas sales.

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“The number of different variants of turkey and turkey joints available in supermarkets is quite simply staggering,” he says. “It took me 45 minutes to look at and digest every different offer available at one of the biggest supermarkets—26 different options.

“The major retailers are now making it hard for the consumer to choose and when they finally do they are worried they made the wrong choice.”

Looking ahead to the coming year, Kelly is optimistic about prospects. “Collecting the turkey from the local farm or butcher has tremendous perceived value,” he says. “The competition for a slice of the nation’s disposable incomes is fierce, but food will always do well as it is a no option purchase. Christmas dinner is a very indulgent meal and one where people will continue to treat themselves.”

He does, however, see an ongoing threat from imported “butterflies.” Kelly says, “Quality farm fresh turkey has great potential to increase its market share. But to do this we do need the full support of independent butchers, farm shops and delis to promote British turkey and not substitute it with imported butterflies.”