Demand for luxury meals such as goose and duck this Christmas is holding up well against the economic downturn, according to early feedback from the market, while turkeys are again expected to do well.

At the retailer end, upmarket supermarket Waitrose reports that six weeks before Christmas, orders for duck were up 71% year on year, and for goose by 35%, which, it says, is “far outstripping the growth of traditional festive fare such as turkey”.

The supermarket is attributing the rise in demand to a growing number of shoppers looking for an alternative centrepiece for their festive dinner.

Says Frances Westerman, poultry buyer at Waitrose: “Although for many, Christmas still isn’t Christmas without a turkey, the figures suggest that duck and goose are fast becoming this season’s must-have.

“Customers are increasingly looking for a new taste experience and foods that pack more punch in terms of flavour. With their sweet, rich meat, duck and goose make a sumptuous change to Christmas staples such as turkey and chicken.

Judy Goodman, chairman of British Goose Producers, is a little more cautious about the extent of market growth but reports that the trade for farm producers appeared to be “good and firm”.

Her own direct sales to the public were on target, and provided that all the butchers placed their orders as expected, all would be well.

“A few butchers have cut back out of caution, but others have ordered more,” she said. Across the membership, some producers, like her, had reared more geese this year, and some had stayed at the same level.

For British duck producers, Jeremy Blackburn, of the British Poultry Council, said that retail sales of duck had been growing steadily for several years to match its popularity in catering.

“Consumers are getting more confident about cooking duck now,” he said.

Mr Blackburn also believed it would be a good season for turkeys: “This is the first year that all the big retailers have committed to sourcing only UK-produced turkeys.”

He also pointed out that turkeys placings have shown a marked upswing in the UK this year, for the first time for at least 10 years.

In the summer months, poult numbers were up by nearly 9%.