Irish Thanksgiving celebrations drive early demand for turkey

The traditional Christmas turkey market has been extended to take in November’s Thanksgiving celebrations and the New Year healthy eating commitment, according to Co Meath turkey grower Fintan Hogan.

“We started slaughtering birds for Thanksgiving a few days ago.

“Numbers are in the hundreds, but demand is such that we now dedicate a specific proportion of annual throughput for this celebration.

“We produce 60,000 finished birds per year. For the most part, our birds are prepared for the Christmas market. But there is a continuing demand for turkey breast well into the New Year.

“The meat is now widely recognised as making a valuable contribution to the healthy diets, which many people commit to in January.”

Hogan said that below-cost selling on the part of the multiples remains a major challenge for the turkey industry in Ireland.

“In our own case, we sell to butchers and independent retailers. Our sole multiple outlet is Dunnes Stores.

“Most of our birds are reared indoors: only a small number of our woodland brand turkeys are reared outdoors.”

The recent spell of good weather has meant that all our birds are well ahead of schedule, in terms of meeting their growth targets.

Hogan said that turkey producers will require an average price of €4.5/kilo, on a cooked weight basis, to cover their costs this year.

“The current market is on a par with what was on offer this time last year. The challenge we face as a business is that of differentiating our birds from the more standard turkey that is available. With this in mind we now offer a slower maturing bird with a better-defined breast.”

IFA Poultry Committee Chairman Nigel Renaghan said that the prospects for turkey growers are very positive at the present time.

“The key driver in this regard is the change in the labelling regulations, which allows Irish shoppers identify those turkeys that have been reared and processed in this country,” he said.