According to latest conversations in the media, we should start feeding our turkeys less to arrest growth, and slaughter them early in order to create 6kg birds for the modest Christmas gatherings we might all expect this year.
We will not be doing this, and any turkey farmer with any common sense would tell you the same. The logic just isn’t there, firstly as the size that a bird grows to is not solely linked to how much you feed it or what that feed consists of. Turkeys hatch in March and April, and by October they have already built the carcass frame that will dictate their final size. Cutting back on feed might shave 500g off the final weight of the animal but when you are talking about a 10kg bird, that isn’t going to have much impact.
There is also the animal welfare angle – these birds are hungry as their bodies are growing at a natural rate, so feeding them less is not the right thing to do and would have other consequences such as increasing aggressive behaviour within the flock as they seek food or fight over what is provided.
As for slaughtering the bird early as an alternative way of creating a small carcass, again, this has no sound logic. It would be wildly counter-productive for eating experience. Our flocks of turkeys are carefully selected and reared to be in their prime when we slaughter them from the end of October through to November. By this point, the six months of rearing have got them to the perfect level of maturity so that they can be hung for 2-3 weeks to tenderise the meat and make Christmas, that most special of times, as wonderful as it can be. To slaughter the birds weeks ahead of this point would undo all that care, as the meat simply won’t be at its best, and the vast amount of the money has already been spent to rear the bird, so it would not reduce the cost to any significant degree. Then there’s the animal welfare argument again – why cut this life short for so little gain? Our birds walk the pastures of our beautiful Devon family farms, preening and feeding and calling together. Theirs is not a miserable life and we respect them too much to end things early.
There have also been a few eyebrows raised on the farm around the talk from some, that a frozen turkey is an inferior bird. The biggest impact on the eating experience of meat is how the animal is reared, hung and finished, not whether it is frozen or not. There is some snobbery around freezing meat that just doesn’t make sense. Freezing is nature’s preservative and we should embrace how it helps prevent food waste, and gives us the comfort of having a little food in store, especially during a global pandemic. We see the freezer as our friend, it makes us more sustainable as it makes us more resilient to change. And for a well reared, well hung piece of meat frozen at the optimum moment, we challenge anyone to tell the difference once it has been cooked.
Ultimately nature is nature, and animals end up different sizes because they are individuals just like we are. If everyone in the country demands a 6kg turkey there will be frustration and disappointment as it is just not feasible. Instead we encourage those who can to take a larger bird, have a glorious Christmas and make the most of the leftovers and the security having that stash of meat can provide. You can freeze it once cooked, providing plenty of meals to see you through the new year. If you are in a smaller gathering though consider alternative meat like our beautiful 120 Day Christmas Cockerel, Properly Free Range Duck or our Simplest Turkey, which can be cooked super-swiftly too.
Most of all don’t be alarmed by what you hear in the media – please ask us if you have questions about what the best thing to do is. We will do our best to help you have the Christmas respite we are all longing for.
Some Important Things to Consider this Christmas
- Please do order as early as you can to make sure you get the cut of meat you would most like for Christmas. We do sell out every year, pandemic or not.
- Please consider choosing a bird or a roasting joint that allows you to make the most of the glorious leftovers.
- Please do not be afraid of the freezer, once you have been converted you'll never look back and it will help you to eat more sustainably and waste less. Trust us when we say you will still receive some of the finest quality meat in the country.
- Please choose the earliest delivery slot you can, especially if you are having anything frozen, this will be better for you as it reduces the risk of delays from the courier and better for us as it reduces the pressure on our team to get all the orders out at the last minute.
- Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns. With over 30 years experience making Christmas magical, we're on hand to help you make yours special.
Choosing your Christmas Centrepiece
Take a look at our guide below to help you decide what size bird or celebratory piece of meat will be best for your gathering.
If you're considering a celebration for four or less people. We recommend any of the following:
Simplest Turkey, 4 or 6 portion.
Stuffed Turkey Breast, you'll get about 4 portions per kilo.
Small or Medium Goose Breast, a small feeds around 2 people and a medium will feed around 3 people, depending on appetite.
Confit Goose Leg, each one feeds 1-2 people depending on appetite.
Whole chicken, choose from a 1.5kg to feed around 3 people, or a 1.75kg to feed 4.
Whole duck, choose a 2kg bird to feed 4 people.
6 Person Christmas
If you're planning a 6 person Christmas we would recommend any of the following Christmas birds for your table. Don't be afraid to size up and enjoy wonderful leftovers. Doubling up will give you plenty to enjoy in the days after Christmas until it's time to celebrate again for New Year!
Simplest Turkey, 6, 8, 10 or 12 portion, depending on how many leftovers you would like.
Turkey Crown, 3kg Turkey will feed about 9 people so you'll have enough for all your guests plus just a few leftovers. 4kg will give you around 12 portions depending on appetite.
Whole Turkey, 4.5kg Turkey will provide you with 9 portions depending on appetite. 6kg will provide you with around 12 portions depending on appetite, ideal for those looking to enjoy leftovers after the main event.
Turkey Breast or Stuffed Breast, you'll get about 4 portions per kilo. You can cook multiple breasts alongside each other in the oven if you're looking for convenience and easy carving.
Whole Goose, 4.5kg Goose will feed around 7-8 people depending on appetite. A plump goose really does make a wonderful Christmas feast, any of our geese right up to 6.5kg will work for a gathering of 6 with a few delicious leftovers.
Whole Cockerel, 4kg will provide around 8 good portions.
Whole Duck, 3kg Duck will give you 6 portions exactly.
Larger Celebrations, or Christmas with Lots of Leftovers
Whole Goose, we suggest around 1-2 portions per kilo.
Simplest Turkey, choose from our larger sizes of 10 or 12 portion. Due to its easy carving, the meat is wonderful cold for sandwiches and snacks.
Boned and Stuffed Turkeys, a real showstopper and perfect for slicing into lots of leftovers. 4kg feeds 16 people, 4.5kg feeds 18 people, 5kg feeds 20 people, 5.5kg feeds 22 people and 6kg feeds 24 people.
You can shop our whole range of award-winning Christmas meat here.