NFU column: Cratfield turkey farmer urges consumers to buy fresh and local at Christmas
- Credit: Archant
The multi-million pound players have started their Christmas advertising campaign, writes Halesworth turkey farmer Chris Mobbs.
Images flash across our screens of idyllic lunch tables laden with the Christmas turkey and all the trimmings, others show the free-range rearing credentials used to bring this meal to the table. This is advertising on a grand scale: high production costs, no expense spared.
So how does the small producer, independent butcher or farm shop compete with this barrage of imagery designed to whet the appetite?
The answer is quality, individual customer service and value.
We really do treat each customer as an individual, care for each one of our turkeys in a special way and offer our customers very good value for money.
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Also, because we are all so local we invest directly back into our communities.
We offer much more than a series of carefully-crafted images to bring a genuinely special turkey to the table in all its glory on Christmas Day.
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The turkey farmer’s year will start in January with the arrival of the glossy price lists from the breeders, tempting us for the coming season.
Questions that pass through your mind include how many bronze birds to grow, what weight ranges will be the most popular and how is the economy going to be next December?
Once the decision on what to grow is made there is a lull till May or June, when the chicks start to arrive.
Despite this happening every year there is still the excitement of a new arrival, the nurturing of something fragile in its young life and getting it off to a healthy start.
After five or six weeks the first time you let them out to grass is another highlight, that initial timid step into the unknown then the growing confidence as the days go on and they come to enjoy the sun on their backs.
When it comes to shutting up during the early autumn months the unwillingness to be driven into the shed to avoid the attentions of the fox can lead to frustrations but there is always tomorrow and that chance to run and spread your wings and fly.
This may sound lyrical but the farmer, like anybody else, has to take pride in what he does and, though obviously deriving our income from growing the poultry, we also enjoy the process, despite its ups and downs.
December is now looming, 10 days to go before the big pluck commences and all those last minute preparations are under way for the final approach to the big day. The traditional free range turkey will be dry plucked and hand prepared on the farm it was reared on, not transported miles away to a factory, so the plucking gang will have been organised.
As a traditional Christmas turkey producer I, like many others, have been growing turkeys in this way for many years.
It is the knowledge gained in many cases getting on for 100 years that goes into that glorious golden roast bird you serve up on Christmas Day.
Each producer will have his or her own unique selling point, something they do which is different and makes them proud and which they want to tell you about it.
Maybe it’s the feed they use. Some of us grow and produce our own, others might have old orchards the turkeys roam through.
We all like to say that how we pluck, hang and prepare your turkey is unique to us.
So this year, when you come to ordering your free range turkey, go along to your local producer, butcher or farm shop.
These are the outlets where you will find the genuine article and the knowledge to answer questions you might have, as the producer is only a step away, not a long way down the supply chain.
This is what producing a traditional free range turkey is really about.
So enjoy the quality and understand the attention to detail that has gone into that golden roast. We will all be joining you.
To find a turkey producer near you go to www.ukturkeys.co.uk
Chris Mobbs farms at Cratfield, near Halesworth, and is ex-chair of the Suffolk Coastal NFU branch.