Wednesday 13 December 2017

Do they know it's Christmas time at all? It's quiet on the farm, for now...

Despite growing competition, the traditional turkey is still the bird of choice for most families

Turkey farmer Michael Reilly from Maynooth, says his birds are the best reared in Ireland Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Turkey farmer Michael Reilly from Maynooth, says his birds are the best reared in Ireland Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Turkey farmer Michael Reilly Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Turkeys for Christmas at Michael Reilly's farm in Maynooth Photo: Frank Mc Grath

Kirsty Blake Knox and Ralph Riegel

"There are good birds and bad birds," seasoned turkey farmer Michael Reilly from Maynooth says.

"Sometimes they are a docile lot; sometimes they are cranky feckers who annoy the shite out of you. But this year they are a good lot - placid and good tempered."

A turkey farmer for 45 years, this year Michael has raised 5,000 of the birds from hatchlings to henhood to ensure they are the succulent, juicy turkeys of your dreams come Christmas Day.

"It's the most important meal of the year," he said. "And the turkey is the centrepiece. That's a lot of pressure.

"My turkeys are anti-biotic free and heebie-jeebie free. And most importantly they're Irish ... I can stand over every one of my turkeys - they are without doubt the best-reared turkeys in Ireland."

An estimated one million turkeys will make the festive sacrifice this year. Despite growing interest in alternative Christmas dinner offerings such as goose, rabbit, venison and even wild boar, the vast majority of Irish families will still opt for a turkey.

However, there is now growing demand for 'ancient' species such as the Bronze Turkey, sales of which have soared in recent years.

"By Christmas Eve we expect to have sold over 5,000 turkeys and about 350 geese," East Ferry Farm operator Robbie Fitzsimmons told the Irish Independent.

Robbie said the number of Irish families looking for free-range turkeys has doubled over the past four years alone. "There is a price differential of about €3 or €4 and people are more than willing to pay that for a bird that they know is free range."

Since he started offering the Bronze Turkey for sale in 2008, Robbie has seen demand rise each year.

"A lot of people reckon the meat is a little juicier than on a traditional white turkey but, to be honest, I think a lot of it is down to individual taste," the Cork farmer said.

Irish turkey prices have remained steady with a small 5kg free range bird costing €40 on average, compared to the €80 paid for an 11kg bird. However, those intent on eating goose will pay for the privilege. A 5.5kg oven-ready goose costs €60 on average - about 50pc more than a comparable sized turkey.

Irish Independent

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