Saturday 14 December 2019

This is the moment I got my hands on Roy Keane's Christmas lunch - and was loudly told to flock off.

This is the moment I got my hands on Roy Keane's Christmas lunch - and was loudly told to flock off.

And no doubt feathers will be ruffled as it emerges that I also got my claws on the American ambassador's Thanksgiving dinner - and met a bunch of blokes who are planning to mark the festive season by giving President Higgins the bird!

I thought all my Christmases had come at once when I was invited to the ultimate crimbo feast at an organic turkey farm, but the only ones doing any gobbling were my new feathered friends.

For an awful moment, it looked like the real turkey was yours truly as the poultry inspected me at close range.

"It's like that film, The Birds!" said farmer John Paul Crowe, as we were surrounded by all 2,000 of his birds. At just five months old, these monsters already weigh more than 10kg ­and Christmas lunch has never looked so... huge.

Chanted

Armed with sharp beaks and sharper claws, they fenced me in. This was less merry, more scary Christmas.

However, I reckoned the turkeys would turn chicken if they knew what was facing them - the chop, followed by an invitation to Christmas lunch in some of the country's most prestigious homes.

"Two of these turkeys are going to áras an Uachtaráin and the American Ambassador is getting one. And Roy Keane's brother orders one for him every year," said John Paul.

Clearly, they all wanted to be Roy's bird, as they chanted like soccer supporters who had just found a rival fan on their terrace. 'Out! Out! Out!' they seemed to be yelling as they closed in on me menacingly.

Staring at me with their beady eyes, the hen-turkeys pecked me, but this was not an Xmas kiss. The cocks, however, seemed to be more interested in strutting their stuff. With their tails fanned, wings spread and chest-feathers ruffled, they reminded me of those paintings of Henry VIII - and not the slimmed-down version played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

Forced to take refuge on top of a haystack, I was beginning to wonder if they really were vegetarian, as the aptly named Crowe brothers had claimed.

John Paul and his brothers TJ, Ned and Patrick fatten the turkeys up with their own special mixture of oats, wheat, barley, peas and a soya by-product. It sounds like the recipe for beer, so maybe that was why these birds were behaving like yobs.

Close up, the birds looked like beautiful, if quirky, garden ornaments. With their bronze feathers glinting in the sunlight, alien-like beaded faces, and what looked like a radio transmitter on top of each bird's beak, they were a far cry from the likes of Dustin.

And I couldn't imagine stuffing any of these guys with parsley and breadcrumbs.

Luckily, I had two brave lads to help me fend them off in JP's sons James (five) and Ben (three). James is a dab hand at herding the turkeys, while Ben is still getting over his fear of them.

And I nearly turned chicken when John Paul handed me one of the huge birds.

"Hold on to her legs tight, you'd get an awful scratch off those claws," he warned as I nervously took the turkey from him. I also had to hug her to calm her down. The little heart slowed down and she seemed to relax.

Compared to most of the turkeys which will end up on tables this Christmas, these birds are treated well from the moment they arrive at the Crowe family farm near Dundrum, Co. Tipperary, to the day they are sent to the slaughterhouse in Kells, Co. Meath.

Unlike the miserable birds raised in batteries, which are more susceptible to infections, these birds roam free from dawn to dusk, and are only locked up at night for their own safety.

Delivered

But a fox did manage to kill two of them in broad daylight recently, says JP.

"He came here the other day at 3am and just calmly killed two of them and ate them. I shot him and was planning to turn him into a trophy, but when I went back to look for his carcass, he was gone."

With prices starting at €12 a kilo, these organic turkeys don't come 'cheep', but most of the brothers' customers are posh restaurants in Dublin. They also sell direct to householders and are delivered in styrofoam boxes or can be picked up at the farm.

The brothers also have a mobile cafe-cum-shop, Three Men in a Trailer, where they serve turkey sambos covered in their homemade sauce. Unfortunately for the terrible cooks among us, they won't be on the road on Christmas Day.

Irish Independent

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