Traditional turkey show is ‘last of its kind’

With the top awards: Danny Rowe, show judge, Len Goodman, ATA secretary, and James Marriage, W & H M

With the top awards: Danny Rowe, show judge, Len Goodman, ATA secretary, and James Marriage, W & H Marriage. - Credit: Archant

Top quality exhibits vied for awards at a unique East Anglian turkey show thought to be is the last of its kind.

Jody Baxter, Cottage Farm Turkeys, receiving his award for Best in Show from Barbara and Danny Rowe,

Jody Baxter, Cottage Farm Turkeys, receiving his award for Best in Show from Barbara and Danny Rowe, show judges - Credit: Archant

Cottage Farm Turkeys in Kent scooped six awards at the Anglian Turkey Association’s (ATA) annual show at Stoke-by-Nayland — a unique event in the turkey world where birds are still displayed in the way they were traditionally hung outside butchery shops.

There were once such events in regions around the UK, with turkeys ‘show plucked’ to leave their neck feathers intact. The ATA show is the last one surviving and continues to flourish with support from many of its 150 members, say its organisers.

Cottage Farm Turkeys, based at Cudham, near Sevenoaks, scooped the trophies for the best hen over 8kg, braces of both white and bronze turkeys, over-ready under 11kg, butcher’s retail presentation and best in show.

The family business was founded by Phil Baxter, who turned from teaching at Halstead, Kent, to keeping turkeys. What began as a passion for the ‘good life’ in the 1970s has grown into a business rearing day-old poults through to six-week old growers for farmers countrywide as well as developing their own sales of Christmas turkeys.

Andy Spencer, Dave French, Sam Spencer, Judith Pitman, Kim Spencer of Cottage Farm Turkeys, Clive Jo

Andy Spencer, Dave French, Sam Spencer, Judith Pitman, Kim Spencer of Cottage Farm Turkeys, Clive Johnson of Johnson�s Poultry, William Weeks of Laylands Farm and Jody Baxter of Cottage Farm Turkeys. - Credit: Archant

Over the past 10 years they have also built up a substantial retail butchery business at Polhill Garden Centre, Badgers Mount, Sevenoaks, which sells around 2500 turkeys for Christmas and supplies turkey and other meats to more than 400 caterers, pubs and restaurants through the year.

Farm manager Jody Baxter said: “This is a tremendous achievement to win so many awards at such a prestigious event and it is a testament to the way we rear and produce our turkeys.”

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Other awards went to William Weeks, of Billericay, Essex, Johnson’s Poultry of Sudbury, Suffolk, and Ian Wylie of Newmarket, Suffolk.

The show was organised for the first time by James Marriage, director of animal feed manufacturers W & H Marriage of Chelmsford, taking over from Paul Fields who held the role for almost 20 years. The judge was retired Suffolk turkey producer Danny Rowe, who praised the “absolutely astonishing efforts” made by ATA members to present so many top quality exhibits.