Immediate action was called for last month to check the devastating slump in turkey sales, down from 40 million UK birds a year in 1995 to the current 15 million.
"The whole industry has got to do something about it," said Ted Wright, chairman of the British Poultry Council and a former Bernard Matthews chief at a recent meeting of the Anglian Turkey Association, Feering, Essex.
The cause of the decline, he claimed, was lack of promotion of the product and the failure to stick with an expanding market in cut-up, joints and further products. Meat off the bone had powered the record rise in consumption in the mid-nineties but it had not been maintained.
Year-round producers had retrenched to a point where Paul Kelly, of Kelly Turkeys, and the traditional farm fresh (TFF) sector had become the most recognisable face of British turkey farming, he said. The TFF sector was generating all the activity and outside of the Christmas season there was no one else driving the market, said Mr Wright.
This warning came days after Bernard Matthews Farms marketing director Matthew Pullen suggested that the health benefits of eating turkey by reducing saturated fat intakes could be one way the industry can fight back and push up consumption.