Consuming Issues: The truth about British turkeys

Did you know that turkeys can fly? Not domesticated turkeys, of course, but wild turkeys, who fly for short distances at speeds of up to 55 miles per hour.

Just as well their shed-bred cousins can't flee, though shoppers seem to be fleeing from turkeys.

There seems to be a movement away from them this year. A London restaurant, High Timber, has decided not to serve turkey at Christmas. "I find it absolutely amazing that we reserve the worst meat for the most special meal of the year," spits co-owner Neleen Strauss.

A publicity stunt, perhaps, but some of the most famous chefs in Britain don't seem to like turkey much. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall says it goes too dry and resorts to hacking off the legs before shoving the breast in the oven. Heston Blumenthal won't be serving one at his family dinner; instead the Blumenthals will tuck into goose on 25 December. "It just goes too dry," the chef tutted in a newspaper interview.

Indeed, turkey seems to be falling out of public favour, probably not helped by 2007's outbreak of H5N1 avian flu in East Anglia. Some 160,000 turkeys had to be culled and, although a link with the Hungarian operation of Bernard Matthews was not proven, Matthews promised to sell only British birds in the UK in the future.

According to Mintel, sales of turkey have been slipping for years, with sales of 136 million tonnes in 2003 falling to an estimated 124 million last year. In cash terms, spending is down about 10 per cent over the same period after inflation to £136m a year.

Of course turkey is sold all year round, but the biggest splurge is at Christmas, with between 8 and 9 million turkeys stepping from slaughterhouse to dinner table.

What kind of a life do they have? Not a particularly good one, most of them. Little has been written about the treatment of these inquisitive birds, perhaps because they're thought of as seasonal, compared with the fuss rightly made about chickens last year.

Funnily enough – well, not funny, I suppose, if you're a flightless bird – conditions are very similar. It's the same old story, really.

Around 90 per cent of turkeys are kept in intensive sheds, up to 25,000 birds a time, with heavy use of lighting to keep them feeding almost round the clock. Fast-growing species are used. There's little stimulation. They eat, get bored, get excessively large upper bodies, get killed.

Compassion in World Farming is concerned about this and points out that there is no specific legislation governing turkeys, and the Government-backed code of conduct is voluntary. What does the RSPCA say? Much the same.

Alice Clark, the RSPCA farm animal welfare scientist, says: "We have real concerns about the way in which the majority of turkeys in the UK are raised. We would like to see all turkeys farmed to RSPCA standards where they are able to move around freely and perform their natural behaviours."

Sales are rising of the RSPCA's Freedom Food birds, which have twice the space, less constant lighting and more stimulation such as straw bales, perches and lengths of rope.

These birds cost more than Quality British Turkey. Even more expensive are free-range birds, which have a chance to peck around outside as well as enjoying more space.

Is it worth spending more? It depends if you care about animals. But I do wonder if people would be better off buying a smaller, better looked after bird and eating it all.

The internet is buzzing with recipes for turkey leftovers such as Christmas Pie. Sandwiches are not the only solution.

Too dry? Perhaps it's worth cooking the legs and breast separately.

Heroes & Villains

Heroes: Metropolitan Police

The Met have finally acted on the slew of scam websites selling fake branded goods. In an operation with Nominet, the internet authority, it closed down 1,219 dodgy websites. One of the main cons was advertising Ugg boots that were fake or simply never delivered. The sites will spring back, I'm sure, making the most of the time between starting and closing to defraud shoppers. But it's best to make life as hard as possible for the crooks.

Villains: Spanish eggs

Scores of people are falling ill with an unusual strain of salmonella and the chief suspect is Spanish eggs. Spanish eggs are cheaper, which is why they end up getting served up in care homes and takeaways. Several Chinese restaurants, a few other takeaways and a care home have all been investigated by the Health Protection Agency regarding the latest outbreak. In 2006, a survey by the European Food Safety Agency found 11 per cent of UK egg farms had salmonella. In Spain the figure was 73 per cent. Some 144 people in the UK have got salmonella in this latest outbreak. We should band Spanish eggs until the Spanish government cleans up the industry.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Suggested Topics
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

    £40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    competitive: SThree: Are you passionate about sales?Do you have a keen interes...

    Recruitment Genius: Loan Adviser - OTE £30,000

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Assistant / Buyer

    £15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

    Tribal gathering

    Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

    Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

    Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
    Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

    Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

    No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
    How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

    Power of the geek Gods

    Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

    Perfect match

    What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
    10 best trays

    Get carried away with 10 best trays

    Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
    Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

    Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

    Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
    Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

    Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

    He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high