Traditional Norfolk Poultry meets 25pc upsurge in orders for free range Christmas turkeys
- Credit: Chris Hill
A free-range Norfolk poultry producer is nearing the end of a bumper season which has seen a 25pc leap in turkey numbers, and £1m invested to meet retail demand.
Shropham-based Traditional Norfolk Poultry has ramped up production to around 300,000 turkeys this year – enough, it estimates, to feed more than 1.5m people on Christmas day.
Director Mark Gorton says the upsurge in demand is the result of a successful campaign last Christmas, prompting increased orders from supermarkets who are looking for high-welfare, high-quality birds from a proven, audited system.
He said his business applies a rigorous series of checks to ensure disease prevention and biosecurity, while meeting the strict criteria for animal health and welfare assurance standards.
This year the company has also invested almost £1m to bring seven more farm units into production across Norfolk and Suffolk, as well as introducing automated feeding systems and designing an innovative new mobile housing system to increase efficiencies while meeting increased demand.
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'The quality of the turkeys is the big thing for us, and that is what has driven this increase in orders,' said Mr Gorton. 'I think it shows the trust our retailers have in the quality of what we supply them.
'There is still a lot of mass-produced poultry, but for Christmas the emphasis has gone onto a finding a real top-quality turkey. The reason I say what we do is so good is because there is so much third-party scrutiny. We now have to employ a person full-time to look after all the audits we get from people including RSPCA Freedom Food, Red Tractor and Trading Standards.
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'There would be an outcry if one of our customers thought we were doing something wrong. But we have got all these third party auditors doing unannounced spot checks to make sure we are doing it right. People underestimate the significance of some of the stuff we need to do to comply.
'Provenance is so important these days, and ultimately it is customer-driven. At the end of the day, the retailers will only want to sell what the customer will buy, but it says a lot about the integrity of the industry.'
Mr Gorton said the last remaining batches of this year's turkeys would be processed by the end of next week. He said he would take great festive pride in the number of people eating his Norfolk Bronze, Norfolk Black and Narragansett birds this Christmas, adding: 'When I sit down to eat my own Christmas dinner, I'm always thinking there are a lot of people out there sitting down to eat one of our turkeys.'