18 December 1998

RED TAPE THREAT

TO FRESH TURKEY ON FAMILY FARMS

A PARADE of pedigree turkeys launched British Turkey Month, organised by the Anglian Turkey Association and the National Federation of Meat and Food Traders.

The birds trotted out on Parkers Piece, Cambridge, accompanied by the Stackyard Stompers jazz band playing Christmas carols.

They made a jolly sight, but producers are still gloomy that increased EU regulations and a decline in traditional butchers shops will kill off the trade in farm fresh turkeys, plucked on site and sold to butchers.

They gained little cheer from a statement from farms minister Nick Brown confirming that on-farm slaughter houses where producers kill less than 10,000 birds will still enjoy the derogation from licensing under the EU Poultry Meat Directive, although off-farm slaughterhouses killing fewer than 10,000 birds a year will not be exempt.

"The problem is that the minister has not mentioned the New York dressed regulations, which will affect farm producers," says Derek Kelly of Kelly Turkey Breeders, Essex, which produces 100,000 Christmas turkeys, of which 30,000 are hand-plucked and sold to butchers.

An increasing mountain of rules and regulations coming from Brussels and proposed inspections charges of over £50/hour by the Meat Hygiene Service discriminate against smaller turkey farms, many of which are family-owned business, says Dereks son, Anglian Turkey Association chairman Paul Kelly. "This could result in many farms producing fresh turkeys for sale direct from the farm or through local butchers shops, being forced out of business," he says.

The high quality of the birds available for the Christmas market this year was apparent at the ATA Annual Turkey Show after the parade. Kellys turkeys won an embarrassment of trophies, taking five of the seven classes, including Best Bird in Show, won with a bronze turkey weighing about 12lb.

"I think we might have to step back another year as to win so much does not encourage the newcomer," says Mr Kelly senior.

Would-be producers might mutter that the ever-increasing number of EU regulations has a similar effect.

Tessa Gates

Essex-based producers Derek (left) and Paul Kelly took the prize for best bird in show with this bronze turkey and won four other awards.

The Stackyard Stompers serenaded a parade of turkeys from Mike Smith & Son, Dunmow, Essex. At the show (left) Dr Cliff Nixey judged the birds, with Louise Thain as steward.