Cut price deals could damage industry, warns turkey farmer

Turkey producers have been warned that rearing birds to supply to local wholesale markets and auctions at spot prices will do long-term damage to the traditional Christmas turkey sector.

The local markets are normally used as dumping grounds for unsold turkeys, which are often sold at very low prices and undermine the market, said Paul Kelly, managing director at Kelly Turkeys.

Let us remember just one more time local markets are useful but not if they are often sold at very low prices and undermine the market. The attraction of realising the cash of a few left-over turkeys, at whatever cost, can be very expensive in the long term if your local customers realise they can go to the auction or market to buy your turkeys at discounted prices rather than buying direct from you.

Kelly added that supermarkets were offering such a wide range of cuts that it could confuse customers, leading to fewer whole bird sales, which make up 80% of Kellys Christmas sales.

The number of different variants of turkey and turkey joints available in supermarkets is quite simply staggering, he explained. 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 are making the wrong choice.

Despite his warnings, Kelly revealed that he is optimistic about the coming year and future prospects: Collecting the turkey from the local farm or butcher has tremendous perceived value. The competition for a slice of the nations 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.

Although being positive, he also claimed it was important to remain cautious. 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.

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