Poultry Awards Finalists – Rod Adlington

Rod Adlington – Turkey Talk
Pheasant Oak Farm, Balsall Common, Coventry

The thrills and spills of the racing track are close to Rod Adlington’s heart.  But it’s the smoke from the tyres, as the cars speed towards the pit stop, which is propelling his turkey business forward.

It all started back in 1995 when Rod returned home at Christmas to help his father on the family’s turkey farm after finishing university and working as a “boat bum” in Croatia for a few years.

This move homeward, coincidentally, collided with a shift in the turkey sector towards marketing portions and cuts of meat. 

As racing had always run in the blood of the Adlington family, Rod took it upon himself to become both a career racing driver and a turkey marketer for the next five years.   

The first step was to learn from the frontline.  He visited a butcher near the farm in Balsall Common, Coventry, who taught him the tricks of the trade.  By sourcing turkeys from his father, Mike Adlington of Greenacre Turkeys, and cutting and marketing the turkey products through Turkey Talk he tabbed into an exciting market right at its birth.  

Once the five years was up, he took another turn on the track by smoking and cooking turkey.  The energy and drive of the racing driver was suddenly channelled straight into the turkey business, racing it forward at high speed. 

Eleven years on, and Rod supplies premier raw and cooked turkey – as well as a wide range of cooked charcuterie, such as kangaroo and crocodile steaks – to a customer base of 500.    

“We started supplying retailers and got Harrods and Harvey Nichols without really trying,” he explains.  “They just want quality and to me it’s not rocket science.  If you throw quality into the market it will give you growth and sales.  We are 25% up from last year on our sales because we’ve improved our quality and kept it at the very top.”
For Rod, the future of his business lies in cooking and smoking turkey but he is quick to dispute any suggestions that he is running a cooked meat company rather than a farming business. 

He currently works on the farm every Monday and Friday, rearing 55,000 birds, and plans to increase production to 200,000 birds in two years time while converting from barn to free-range.

“We are turkey farmers and we’ve got plenty of money invested in rearing turkeys and the slaughter house.  If we’re not careful we could be seen as a cooked meat company and we don’t really want that.  But then quite a lot of the independents say to us ‘Well, if you’re supplying turkey and smoked turkey can you do my beef and my ham as well?’  You can’t say ‘No’. 

So it’s been a bit of a tricky marriage,” he says.

With ambitious plans to supply every independent in the country with smoked turkey by June 2008, Rod finished building a new smoker specifically for turkeys this August. 
“Our future is smoked turkey, whole heartedly.  We want to be seen in the next year as the premier supplier of smoked turkey in the country.  That’s our foremost market.

There’s lots of exciting stuff in the wings waiting to happen,” he enthuses.   

The company now operates under three brands – Turkey Talk, Adlington and Springfield Foods.  Adlington is the premier brand, Springfield Foods supplies retailers such as the Budgens franchise stores, and Turkey Talk sits somewhere in the middle. 

“You have to be businessmen.  You must view the farming business with a business brain.  As a matter of safety we have three brands,” says Rod. 

Working with a 35% sales margin on most products, he operates the business in sole partnership with his wife, under the belief that it is a volume business but products have to be set at a price that will allow growth to be sustainable.
And it seems to be a business model that’s working as Rod speeds off into a profitable sunset leaving his competitors behind.

Farm Facts

  • Rears 55,000 turkeys throughout the year
  • Plans to increase this to 200,000 by 2009
  • 500 customers
  • Turkey production plus raw, smoked and cooked charcuterie business
  • 8 full-time, 12 part-time employees
  • Distributes across the Midlands, London, Yorkshire, Derbyshire

What the judges liked

  • Impressive business plan
  • Clear vision
  • Huge potential for future growth
  • Excellent product development
  • Ambition and drive

Pullout Quote
“You have to be businessmen.  You must view the farming business with a business brain.  As a matter of safety we have three brands.”To find out more about Rod visit www.farmersweeklyawards.co.uk 

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Farmers Weekly Awards 2021

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