Irish people are expected to eat approximately 950,000 turkeys this Christmas, according to Bord Bia.

However, 11,000 geese will be produced in Ireland for Christmas, according to Co. Wicklow poultry farmer Sean Kent.

Kent says that there are approximately 11,000-15,000 geese processed in Ireland on an annual basis, with the majority of these birds destined for the Irish Christmas market.

Kent runs a poultry breeding enterprise in Ballyrichard, Arklow, Co. Wicklow where he also sells 120-130 geese for the Christmas market.

“We mainly operate a breeding farm and the number of birds produced for the Christmas depends on flock size. Most of the geese we process for the Christmas are surplus to requirements on farm,” he said.

There is a greater tradition of eating goose at Christmas in the west of Ireland, according to Kent.

He added that goose traditionally comes into season at Christmas, but the season generally runs from September 29 right through to January 6.

Kent added that the farm also produces a large quantity of ducks on an annual basis with duck being very popular.

Turkey numbers in decline

Bord Bia has said that domestically-produced turkey numbers have declined from the highs of 2000-2005 period with just under 1m processed in Ireland last year.

The numbers of turkeys produced in Ireland in 2014 were also considerably lower than previous years, it says.

In total, there were 794,000 turkeys reared in Ireland in 2014 and it estimates that approximately 14% of these birds were processed for the Christmas market. 

This represents a significant drop from the 2000-2005 period where on average there were 3.6m turkeys processed in the Republic of Ireland on an annual basis, with a peak of 3.8m reached in 2005.

Bord Bia also says that during this period the average kill averaged 1.2m birds annually.

However, according to Bord Bia, approximately 30% of the total number of turkeys consumed in the Republic of Ireland this Christmas will be imported.

There were also high numbers of turkeys imported during the month of December in 2013 with approximately 326,000 birds imported and sold through the wholesale and butcher channels.

As a result, it says that shoppers should look out for the Bord Bia quality mark when buying the turkey and ham this Christmas.

According to Bord Bia, conventional turkey production in the Republic of Ireland is carried out under its Poultry Assurance Scheme.

There are currently three processing plants listed under this scheme and they are Hogan’s Farm in Co. Meath and Grove Farm and IGWT, both in Co. Monaghan.

All the farms and houses used to provide birds to these would be under the Quality Assurance Scheme, it says.

Bord Bia also says that there are 111 Quality Assured turkey farmers supplying the above companies while many smaller producers across Ireland supplying the local markets.

However, it added that there are many local producers of turkeys and, as a result, it is unaware of the numbers produced on an annual basis outside of the scheme.