Whole turkey back on the menu for Christmas

Whole turkey sales at Christmas are holding their own after a big swing to crowns and breast joints at major retailers over the past few years, according to Paul Kelly, managing director of Kelly Turkeys Farmgate Hatcheries.

This swing does seem to have slowed or even stopped, he said, commenting on the December trends.

Kelly Turkeys own farmgate sales at Danbury in Essex showed 72% sold as whole birds and 28% as crowns or joints. Our retail sales have stayed at these percentages for the past four years but in the major retailers it has been the opposite. I am not sure why, but my gut feeling is they do not promote the whole bird as the obvious choice, and it gets lost in the plethora of crowns and joints.

He did urge traditional turkey producers not to ignore the market for joints and 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 per kg at retail last year.

Whole bird sales to butchers held up well, but he cautioned again about imported turkey butterflies that, he said, are very cheap and with inherent big gross margins continuing to hinder sales of traditional British turkeys.

For farmers ordering poults for this year he recommended buying 33% as-hatched and 66% sexed hens to give a spread of weights to supply most order books.

He said the companys small-breed stags 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. Explain this to your customers they cannot ignore eating quality.

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