We eat around 10 million turkeys in the UK at Christmas, with the average bird weighing in at 5.5kg (12lb).* It makes both practical and economic sense: not only is turkey an excellent source of low-fat protein, it's also more versatile than you might think with joints and cuts that include mince, diced turkey, breast steak, drumsticks, sausages, stir-fry strips, burgers and crown roasts. It's good value, too: before the Second World War a fresh turkey cost a week's wages. Today, it can cost less than £4 per kg.
Historically, most Christmas turkeys are bought from a supermarket and likely to come from one of two large scale UK-based producers, but with more consumers keen ‘to know where their food has come from,’ there has been a resurgence in demand for local, farm reared Christmas turkeys.
Enterprising farmers have caught onto this opportunity and there are now a good number promoting their ‘farm reared’, free range’, ‘traditional’ turkeys at a premium price which people are happy to pay for what is often the most important family meal of the year.
One such farmer is Walters Turkeys, based at Bower Farm on the Berkshire Downs, which now incorporates traditional farming with a turkey enterprise producing 12,000 birds in the run-up to Christmas. The family business, which sees many customers returning year after year, focuses on quality and freshness, favouring free range bronze, organic free range bronze and also traditional farm fresh barn reared turkeys.
Bower Farm charges from around £10.75/kg for a turkey, which equates to a 40 per cent premium over the basic supermarket-bought bird. This is a perfect example of a successful diversification which doesn’t detract from the mainstream farming operations but which commands a premium price for its high quality product through prudent marketing and distribution.
*According to British Turkey