One of the pioneers of modern multi-site poultry production, Edward (Ted) Burnham has died, aged 86.


Ted went to work for JP Wood and Sons in Shropshire in 1956, one of only 10 employees. When he retired in 1984 he was a director and the longest serving employee of a business which employed 1500 people and owned 55 sites.

Born in May 1924, in Penkridge, Staffordshire, Ted was called up into the Royal Engineers during the Second World War, and landed on Sword Beach the day after D-Day.

Leaving the army in 1947, he took a course in poultry practice at the Monmouth Institute of Agriculture, which led to a job managing a poultry unit in Herefordshire. As soon as he had saved enough, Ted studied again, gaining his NDP from Harper Adams Agricultural College in 1956, and joined J P Wood and Sons.

Over the next three decades, he played an integral part in the huge growth of the business. Merger with Dale Turkeys in 1962 to create Midland Poultry Holdings was followed by take-over by Unilever in 1968. He saw the development of mass market poultry brands including Chukie Chickens and MidWest Turkeys. In the West of England and Wales he recruited and trained the staff to run a network of farms and processing plants.

Ted’s greatest passion was wood, working initially on a lathe he built himself from a car gearbox.

He died peacefully on 3 September 2010 after a stroke. He leaves his wife, Grace, to whom he had been married for 46 years. The poultry industry has lost another “founding father” as Charles Wood described him. We see their legacy in today’s poultry industry.