Marco Pierre White endorses firm behind Turkey Twizzlers
Michelin-starred chef to become 'ambassador' for Bernard Matthews Farms
What links exquisitely cooked young leeks, girolle mushrooms and roasted guinea fowl, and factory-farmed turkey breasts? The chef-turned-stock-cube-salesman Marco Pierre White.
The hot-tempered Yorkshireman, who became the youngest recipient of the gastronomic world's highest prize, three Michelin stars, is to become an "ambassador" for Britain's biggest turkey farmer, Bernard Matthews.
In return for an undisclosed sum, he will promote the East Anglian poultry giant and help devise a new range of processed products aimed at giving turkey all-year-round appeal.
The money from the move away from fine dining, where White made his name in the 1980s, may come in handy during his long-running divorce battle with his wife Mati. It also makes him an advocate of a firm whose most famous product, the nutritionally dubious (and now defunct) Turkey Twizzler, was vilified by his fellow chef Jamie Oliver in his campaign to improve school dinners.
For the £335m-turnover-a-year Bernard Matthews Farms, the high-profile endorsement may help it achieve its goal of shifting the UK away from its "turkey is just for Christmas" psyche and upgrade its tarnished image.
The private firm slumped to a £77m loss three years ago after an outbreak of avian flu at a plant in Holton, Suffolk that was closely related to a strain in Hungary, from where it had been importing turkey. An official government report found gulls could pick up turkey waste in the Holton compound and rodents could sneak through holes in turkey sheds. Bernard Matthews later announced it would farm only British birds in a corporate rebranding, for which White's tie-up appears to be the latest manifestation.
White, 48, who has a similar deal with Knorr chicken stock cubes, declined a request for an interview. However, in a statement put out by Bernard Matthews, he said he was "honoured and privileged" to be working with the firm "to promote the great bird and put turkey back on menus across the UK". "Ever since I was a young boy, I've been an admirer of turkey and particularly Bernard Matthews, because he is without question one of the great farmers of the last five decades," said White, who retired from the stove in 1999. "Turkey is the nation's favourite roast on the most important family day of the year, so why not all year round?"
He described Bernard Matthews as a "fully integrated food business", hatching turkey eggs and milling their feed from locally sourced wheat. Jeff Halliwell, the former Mars and Colgate marketing executive who was appointed the managing director of Bernard Matthews last year, said that White would be "a great advocate for this great meat".
He added that the firm was investing in "many new initiatives and innovative products" to raise turkey consumption in the UK, which is only half that of countries such as France or Italy, and to make it an affordable and commonly consumed form of protein.
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