For Geoffrey Buchanan, director of Gressingham Foods, the history books will not look back on 2022 as a red letter year for British poultry, but nor is there quite the dearth of turkeys that were predicted. Overall, supply numbers might be down thanks to culling, but there is “enough to go round”.
“There are less of the premium-type turkeys, the free-range bronze. That type of production has been hit harder with bird flu. Whereas the traditional indoor white turkeys haven’t been as hard hit so there’s a more normal supply of those.”
Though the drop in price in the supermarket does at least “drive demand,” it also risks “devaluing the true cost of the product,” he adds. “There’s been a lot of inflation on farm costs, so I guess those costs aren’t being fully passed through to the consumer.”
He can see why a price war suits the supermarkets. “If they can offer competitively priced turkey then it might bring more footfall into their shop and then consumers will buy all the other bits they need for Christmas on the same visit and they’ll make their margin on the other products.”
What will happen, then, to any excess turkey? Paul White, a farmer in Lancashire, says he has been left with “hundreds” of unsold turkeys due to what he refers to as “scaremongering” by supermarkets who peddled “the myth” of a turkey shortage in order to drive up sales of frozen birds. He has launched a campaign to help struggling families and get rid of his gluten of birds, asking customers to buy £10 vouchers on his turkey farm – for every five vouchers sold, he’ll donate a turkey to a family in need of a helping hand with their Christmas lunch.
“We had an oversupply of turkey, because people have opted for frozen and we would have hated to think they’d go to waste,” he told his local newspaper. “We know lots of people are struggling this year, so it was a chance for us to do some good out of what has been a pretty tough situation for us.”
Tom Copas’s advice for those searching for a last-minute turkey? “Speak to your local farmer, because they’ve still got turkeys to sell for this Christmas.”
It could be time to think that rib of beef then – turkey may be back on the menu.