28 April 1995

Big UK demand for turkeys just keeps on rising

In this special focus on poultry Michael Gaisford looks at growth in the turkey industry over the past 25 years, reports on bronze birds and geese, previews next months Pig and Poultry Fair and investigates feed enzyme developments

TURKEY production is one of the few sectors of the UK livestock industry showing consistent growth from year to year.

To meet both consumer and catering demand for whole birds, turkey portions and an ever growing number of value-added products, expansion is taking place right across the board from farmers producing a small crop of top-of-the-market free-range birds for the Christmas trade, to big businesses like Bernard Matthews and Sun Valley intensively producing birds by the million all year round on their own farms and by contract production for the ever growing supermarket trade.

At all scales of production, new growers are actively being sought by most of the front runners in the turkey marketing business, which has about trebled in size over the past 25 years. Back in 1970 UK turkey poult placings totalled just 15m birds a year. By 1976 that had climbed to 21.3m, by 1986 33.5m, and by last year had further increased to 41.3m poults a year – an 8% rise on 1993. A further increase is expected this year. Last year the industry sold 109,000t of turkey meat – up 5% on 1993 – while the value of sales increased by 7% to a new record £296.8m worth at retail level, says the British Turkey Federation.

Sales of whole birds (65% for the Christmas market) were worth £82.8m, portion sales accounted for £93m, convenience and snack foods was worth £83.3m, while turkey rolls and roasts accounted for £37.7m of the trade.

Turkey production has today become big business – largely at the expense of red meat.

UK demand for added-value turkey products continues to grow.