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7 best meat alternatives to Christmas turkey, from roast beef to pheasant wellington

Gobble up something a little different with these deliciously unconventional options

Lizzie Rivera
Wednesday 08 December 2021 17:54
<p>Demand for our top picks is already sky high, so we’d recommend getting your order in fast </p>

Demand for our top picks is already sky high, so we’d recommend getting your order in fast

A turkey is typically the bird of choice for Christmas feasts. But, over the past couple of years, norms have been questioned like never before. Which is just as well, considering the warnings that the UK could face a turkey shortage this year.

So, we asked some of the UK’s top independent retailers, which deliver food straight from the farm to your door, for their suggestions of the best turkey alternatives for the festive period.

How we tested

We looked for a real variation, from Christmas Eve suppers to full on feasts for Christmas Day, with the potential for lots of leftovers. We’ve also included beef and gammon options that will give you flexibility from Boxing Day through until the New Year. To make our selection, we chose boxes from high-welfare farms with free-range animals. A lot of the produce is organic, too.

Demand is already sky high, so while order dates take you right up to Christmas, we recommend you get in there as early as possible. If you’re looking for vegan or vegetarian options then we also have a brilliant guide on the best vegan Christmas dinner essentials.

A note on packaging: typically food is delivered in a cardboard box and kept fresh with ice packs and wool. If you are a repeat customer, some box schemes offer to take this back and recycle it properly for you. If not, separate the wool from its plastic lining before popping it in your home compost bin or in the rubbish for landfill – it’s a natural fibre that breaks down in six to 12 months.

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The outside wrapper of the wool goes in your recycling. All frozen blocks can be used again as ice packs. If freezer space is limited, the ice packs made from water can be drained and the plastic wrap put in your recycle bin. If the ice packs are gel then these are not recyclable, but most box schemes allow you to send them back. Happy feasting!

The best meat alternatives to Christmas turkey for 2021:

  • Best for Christmas through to New Year – The Ethical Butcher Christmas family hamper: £180, Ethicalbutcher.co.uk
  • Best for Boxing Day – Pipers Farm Boxing Day feast box: £110, Pipersfarm.com
  • Best for gluten-free feasting – Peelham Farm organic Christmas festive feast: £190, Peelham.co.uk
  • Best for game – Wild & Game Christmas hamper: £169, Realfoodhub.co.uk
  • Best for gammon – Helen Brownings the ultimate flexible Xmas essentials box: From £30, Helenbrowningsorganic.co.uk
  • Best for unexpected guests – Field & Flower traditional Christmas hamper: £42.95, Fieldandflower.co.uk
  • Best festive duck and trimmings – Coombe Farm Organic duck and trimmings box: £59, Coombefarmorganic.co.uk

The Ethical Butcher Christmas family hamper

Best: For Christmas through to New Year

  • Rating: 10/10
  • Feeds: 10+
  • Last order date: 15 December

If you’re the type of person who likes to prepare for any eventuality, then this is the box for you. One click will have your centrepieces sorted for the whole of the festive period. If used to its fullest potential (ie. you’re clever with leftovers) the Ethical Butcher team says it can provide the meat centrepiece for up to five meals for 10 people.

This is a box of truly quality meat. Cook it as simply as possible and let the expert farming and butchery do all the talking. It even feels a waste to use condiments with the venison burgers and fresh herb sausages, which are both full of flavour.

The Ethical Butcher favours farmers who use one or more forms of regenerative agriculture, with some running carbon-neutral – or even carbon-negative – operations. All chickens are soy-free, while the beef and lamb is Pasture For Life-certified as a minimum. And you truly can taste the difference.

Pipers Farm Boxing Day feast box

Best: For Boxing Day

  • Rating: 10/10
  • Feeds: Six
  • Last order date: Pre-order from now. Delivery slots up to 23 December.

This box is a gift to those hosting on Boxing Day. And, in fact, it would also make a wonderful gift for someone.

The 100 per cent rolled beef sirloin is full of flavour on its own. Add the 100 per cent beef stock and the wow factor is complete. The bottle of S38 cabernet sauvignon made for a lovely pairing, while the cheese and crispbreads finished the meal nicely, and the marmalade stayed on the table throughout. This is simple cooking at its finest.

Pipers Farm is based in Devon, and the 50-acre site works in tune with nature and 40 other family farms in the surrounding area. It is widely recognised for its succulent meats and creative cuts, and has won a whole host of accolades to prove it.

Peelham Farm organic Christmas festive feast

Best: For gluten-free feasting

  • Rating: 9/10
  • Feeds: 6-8
  • Last order date: 12 December (midday)

This hamper provides everything you need for a seriously tasty roast with leftovers for up to eight people. It’s also the perfect accompaniment if you are also considering cooking a turkey (smaller versions of this box are also available).

Peelham Farm offers Pasture for Life-certified and organic meat from its Scottish site. This gluten-free box arrives chilled and ready to cook or freeze. Peelham has also been busy perfecting a range of organic charcuterie and salami made from its free-ranging pigs and organic and PFLA-certified sheep and beef for the past 15 years.

Wild & Game Christmas hamper

Best: For game

  • Rating: 8.5/10
  • Feeds: Four over three days (plus leftovers!)
  • Last order date: 19 December

Christmas is all about indulging in things you wouldn’t typically have year round, which is what makes this Wild & Game hamper so exciting. It offers a lot of food: on Christmas Eve you’re meant to settle down to pheasant wellingtons – juicy pheasant and rich game pâté wrapped in the finest crumbly pastry. Then, on Christmas Day, you cook up a sensational feast starring turkey, duck and guinea fowl along with pigs in blankets. And on Boxing Day you can lay out a glorious cold spread featuring dinky game pies, traditional cheddar, sensational Long Clawston stilton, game and red wine salami and two of Wild & Game’s famous pâtés: partridge, pear and gin, and venison, juniper and gin. Then you still have a whole muntjac leg and a selection of festive chutneys, for when surprise guests show up.

Decadent? Of course! It’s Christmas.

Helen Browning's the ultimate flexible Xmas essentials box: From £30

Best: For gammon

  • Rating: 8.5/10
  • Feeds: Flexible
  • Last order date: 11 December

This is not a traditional food-delivery box, in that Helen Browning invites you to build your own.

Mostly known for its high-welfare organic pork, in 2020 Helen Browning introduced a range of ethically produced lower carbon “good beef”. So the farm has your ready-to-cook Christmas centrepieces sorted, plus the sausages and bacon for “homemade” pigs in blankets, too – which we couldn’t get enough of.

As one of the UK’s few female farmers, Browning has always gone against the grain in pursuit of a better way of farming, and in doing so has helped to shape organic agriculture across the country.

Field & Flower traditional Christmas hamper

Best: For unexpected guests

  • Rating: 9/10
  • Feeds: 5-7
  • Last order date: 12 December

This hamper is a dream for those slow days between Christmas and New Year. It has the ham joint that you can cook up and keep coming back to, as you can with the mild cheeses and charcuterie. The pork pie is huge, but when it’s this delicious, it’s unlikely to last long.

Set up in 2010, Field & Flower’s original mission was to supply consumers with grass-fed, best-quality beef, directly to their home. The company now works with some of the best independent West Country farms and fishers to offer even more produce.

Coombe Farm Organic duck and trimmings box

Best: Festive duck and trimmings

  • Rating: 8.5/10
  • Feeds: Up to six
  • Last order date: 19 December for 22 December delivery

If you’re all about flavour when it comes to your meat, but still want a bird to carve up on the big day, we think duck is for you. More specifically, this one from the Somerset-based Coombe Farm Organic. Coming with all the organic trimmings (bar the veg), there’s gravy, pigs in blankets and apricot sausage-meat stuffing and cranberry sauce – all of which is organic and high welfare. So you’ve got almost everything you need for the meal of all meals.

The ducks at Coombe have space to roam and swim, and have a natural diet, meaning the meat is better in texture and flavour. The farm also prides itself on its short supply chain, traceability, environmentally beneficial organic farming system and nose-to-tail philosophy.

We roasted the whole duck and the meat was incredibly tender, with a delicious gamey flavour – it isn’t as strong as something like venison, but certainly more than your average turkey. Once carved, the meat was melt-in-your-mouth good, and we paired it with our favourite Italian primitivo red wine. We had it with roasted potatoes – cooked in goose fat for the ultimate combination of crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside – glazed carrots, green cabbage and the included pigs in blankets, all finished it off with the organic poultry gravy.

We shared it between two, but it could have fed more depending on meat portion size and the range of trimmings. We saved the sausage meat to make our signature sausage rolls, which went down a storm too.

The verdict: Meat alternatives to Christmas turkey

These boxes are all so different and packed with taste and value, it’s hard to pick an overall winner. But for the second year in a row, our special mention goes to The Ethical Butcher, which offers true value and proves that quantity does not always come at the expense of quality. Also, the Pipers Farm Boxing Day feast box is an absolute dream – the farm has thought of everything to create a perfect feast.

Voucher codes

For great deals on food and drink, try the links below:

To ensure your festive feast goes off with a bang, read our review of the best Christmas crackers

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