Travelling from farm to table, your turkey collects just a few food miles so buying locally is better for both the bird and for your community. And it's worth remembering that British farmers are renowned for producing food to a world-leading standard, but that's not all they do. Our farmers carefully manage the beautiful British countryside, maintaining a landscape that is home to a diverse range of wildlife and flora.
Let's meet some of the farmers who produce your quality British turkeys.
Jade Stock's Bronze turkeys
Moving to the country a decade ago heralded a new start in more ways than one for Jade Stock – and not least the launch of her own business, Out & About Poultry, rearing turkeys and geese for the Christmas table.
Jade, and husband James, started a smallholding in 2012 with just 10 birds and have steadily grown their numbers each year, while maintaining their free range, high welfare ethos, which has earnt them Golden Turkey accreditation, the highest standard for turkeys.
This year Jade is rearing 150 turkeys for the festive season, which they will sell at a farmers’ market, to regular customers and, for the first time, online, after launching a new web ordering system. Their 50 geese are sold through a local butcher.
Although the festive period is the main focus of her work, Christmas is on Jade’s mind from the very start of the new year, when she reviews the previous 12 months to see what worked and, crucially, what didn’t. She places her order with the hatchery in February and March and spends the next couple of months preparing and cleaning sheds, as well as the birds’ feeders and drinkers. The geese arrive in the last week of May while the young turkeys arrive a month later.
After much taste-testing, Jade has opted to rear all bronze turkeys because she believes they offer a far superior flavour when allowed to fully mature.
Welfare is paramount to Jade, who says:
“We rear and prepare all our birds on site to the highest welfare standards as we believe happy birds make tasty birds."
“Our turkeys range in our long grassy meadows, our geese are grazed on our clover-rich field with access to a brook and they frequently dine on apples, damsons, plums and pears from our orchard, as well as prepared feed and we believe this is the secret to their superior flavour - after all, we’re just doing what comes naturally.”
Visit: Out & About Poultry
Sally Lee and her traditional Wirral turkeys
A holiday job in 1979 changed Sally's life forever. Forced into earning money before taking up a place at Leeds University to study textile design, Sally got a job at British United Turkeys in Cheshire.
Rearing traditional turkeys at home led to breeding and hatching traditional turkeys until 2006. She now concentrates on producing the very best traditional Christmas turkeys locally and selling Hockenhull poults for other like-minded farmers across the country. Sally says:
"I give my turkeys the best attention I possibly can – a large barn with fresh clean straw, access to roam, forage and climb, natural feed free from additives, a safe and happy environment in which to grow and mature."
Sally grows white, bronze and black traditional turkeys. All her turkeys are prepared on the farm and sold within a 20 mile radius. SheI believes that a bird that has been beautifully prepared deserves a decent send off.
"My turkeys are placed in branded boxes with a pop up timer, greaseproof, rosemary and recipe leaflet. Customers leave the farm to the sound of Christmas carols, filled with mince pies, sherry and a big fat smile at having just purchased something very special for a traditional family Christmas."
Visit: Traditional Wirral Turkeys
Paul Kelly and the KellyBronze story
It all began back in 1981 when Derek Kelly supplied a local Essex butcher with a few bronze and black Christmas turkeys from the farm's rare breeding collection.
Customers raved over the delicious flavour and the following year the family collected together the few remaining flocks of traditional Bronze turkeys. These small flocks were all slow growing strains that had retained the original flavour of turkey.
Today's KellyBronze is a mixture of all these bloodlines blended to give the ultimate in eating quality. The exact combination is a closely kept secret. The best traditional farming methods are key to the KellyBronze story and, again, the pursuit of excellence is continual.
Milestones have included using no hormones, antibiotics, additives or animal protein - care for the environment and care for the welfare of the birds.
It goes without saying that KellyBronze turkeys are free range. Now at the helm, Paul Kelly says, "Everyone who works for us gets huge satisfaction from our turkey breeding and farming programme and it shows in the turkeys we produce."
Turkeys in trees?
Paul has re-introduced his famous turkeys to the wild. The birds spend their days foraging in bluebell woods and sunning themselves in open pasture. They shelter from the rain under bushes and fly into trees to roost at night. They are free to wander where they want, when they want.
Paul said: "Our philosophy is always: What can we do to make it better? Not: What can we do to make it cheaper? It's all because we are passionate about our turkeys - and we believe it really makes a difference in the birds we give our customers."
30 years of Frenchbeer Farm turkeys
Frenchbeer farm have been producing traditional turkey for 30 years on their farm, situated in the Dartmoor National Park as tenants of the Duchy of Cornwall.
Mike and Christine Malseed produce white barn-reared, free-range bronze and a flock of organic turkeys, selling them direct from the farm to the Christmas table via farm shops and butchers all over Devon. After introducing turkeys onto the farm in 1986 to help give the business a boost alongside their hill beef and lamb, they have grown their production from just 70 turkeys to 3,500.
“We’re a family run traditional farm and we take a passion in what we do. It’s an exciting time now that we’re really selling that many Christmas dinners,” said Chrisitine.
“Our turkeys are self-basting because they have a layer of fat as they’re reared for six months. The customer wants them slow-reared and they need that time really.
The farm has complete control over their process from putting the day-old poults on the farm when they hatch in early summer, all the way to handing it over to you days before Christmas.
The birds on the farm have all the fields and meadows they could want. They are all able to range and forage on grass, herbs and berries. They’re grown to full maturity, are dry-plucked by hand and game-hung for 10 days – all to enhance the flavour.
Frenchbeer farm go the extra mile for their suppliers and provide them all with turkey crib-sheets so the staff are as clued up as they can be when they’re selling great British turkeys to the public.
The detailed process the Malseed family use to produce their turkeys mean that all the flavour is locked into the whole bird to make sure that Mrs Brown and all of the British shoppers get the best turkey for their Christmas dinner they can.
Visit: Frenchbeer farm
Chris Rumming, Lydiard Turkeys
Quality over quantity is the motto of Chris Rumming at Lydiard Turkeys.
They believe that their small-scale production allows them to pay that extra attention to detail needed in order to produce an exceptional turkey.
The Swindon-based producers raise their birds in the highest-possible welfare conditions with double the paddock space of free-range birds and they are grown to twice the age of fast-growing strains.
The farm are able to carry out every part of the processing on farm which gives them complete control of every facet and complete traceability for their product.
The Rumming’s have been on the farm since 1914, so they are no strangers to the ever-changing world of agriculture.
They produced milk on the farm until 2002 when they moved into beef production, as well as reintroducing sheep on the farm. It wasn’t until 2008 that they introduced turkeys on the farm, slowly growing in numbers and transforming their paddock into a full fruit-orchard.
Much like their farm, the turkey business has evolved in those eight years to become a highly-respected and quality producer of Christmas turkeys.
Visit: Lydiard Turkeys
Cooking a Christmas dinner can be a nerve-wracking experience... but don't worry - just a bit of preparation and a sprinkling of knowledge can help ensure you get the best possible meal out of your Christmas favourites.