Turkey Farming in the UK

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Around 10 million turkeys are eaten every year in the UK at Christmas time. The tradition of eating turkey for Christmas dinner dates back to the 16th century, when Yorkshire landowner and explorer William Strickland introduced the species to Britain.

He reputedly bought some of the birds from native American traders during one of his exploratory voyages in 1526. At the time, the British people would eat chicken, boar, beef, mutton and geese during the festive period.

King Henry VIII was the first monarch to dine on turkey at Christmas. Over the centuries, it became the main dish of the day, after the public followed the royal family’s lead.

Consumer surveys show 76% of Brits choose turkey for their festive feast – 25% of us order it months in advance to ensure we’re prepared for the big day.

Turkey Farming

© Ed Phillips / Shutterstock.com


Turkey farms

Turkey farming is big business in the UK. Farmers point out that raising turkeys is an all-year-round job and not just something that occurs at Christmas. They can’t take holidays, as each turkey house or barn needs to be checked many times every day to ensure the birds’ welfare is being looked after.

Modern turkey farms have computers to monitor the barns, watching everything from the temperature to the food that the birds eat. The system is linked to the farmer’s mobile phone, so that if something is wrong at any one of the turkey barns, he will receive an automatic alert, 24 hours a day.


Animal welfare

The turkeys’ feed changes, depending on their age, so that their nutritional needs are continually met. In today’s climate of taking every farm animal’s welfare into consideration, organisations such as Compassion in World Farming monitor the conditions in the agriculture industry.

With a diet that changes around ten times during the course of their life, with a nutritionist monitoring their feed and ensuring the correct dietary needs are met at each stage, the turkey’s diet includes plenty of vitamins.

A veterinarian is also on call, not only to monitor the birds’ general health, but also to go out to the farms should there be an emergency. If the farmer is concerned about even one turkey’s health, the vet must be called – any illness could soon spread to the whole flock unless treated promptly, so it is imperative the vet is on standby.

When one bird, or a few birds, need treatment, the vet will write a prescription to treat each individual turkey. If the whole flock needs medical treatment, antibiotics can be added to their feed or water.

Today, consumers are increasingly demanding better conditions for livestock, such as ensuring fowl are not packed into enclosures too tightly. We like to know that the old-fashioned ideas of factory farming are being outlawed in favour of kinder methods!


Storage temperatures

Consumers can choose from fresh or frozen turkeys, which most people will buy from the butcher or supermarket. Some people will buy a fresh turkey direct from the farm shop.

Storing the uncooked turkey at the correct temperature is important to ensure it does not contain bacteria that can make people ill. Fresh turkeys are quick-chilled to 40°F or below. They must not be stored at a temperature lower than 26°F.

The farmers must have the appropriate facilities to store them, such as cold stores – the birds are kept chilled throughout the whole process to stop the growth of bacteria. It is recommended that consumers refrigerate fresh turkeys immediately and cook them within one to two days after purchase.

Frozen turkeys are rapidly frozen, using a commercial blast freezer, which reduces its temperature to freezing very quickly to ensure safety and quality. They are stored in freezers at a maximum temperature of 0°F.

1COLD specialises in the supply of temperature-controlled environments, including cold stores, suitable for storing meat such as turkeys. Please contact us for more information on our products and services.

The 1Cold team would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas!