BRITS have been warned to avoid buying frozen turkeys this Christmas amid a bird flu outbreak that could send prices soaring.
Poultry farmers say panic over the availability of turkeys amid a mass wipe out and cull has sparked a buying spree for frozen birds.
Sales reportedly doubled in October, but this has led to a collapse in demand for free range turkeys, with some farmers admitting they are struggling to sell birds.
Paul White, a turkey farmer near Colne in Lancashire, said coverage of the “shortage” has “scared” the public and impacted his business dearly.
He said: “We’re starting to really worry.
“Frozen turkey sales have risen dramatically because people want to make sure they’ve got a turkey in their freezer for Christmas.”
The cost-of-living crisis is also contributing to the turkey sales crisis, as Brits opt for cheaper frozen turkeys to save cash.
Tesco sell a medium sized frozen turkey for £17, while M&S’s fresh free range equivalent comes it at £60.
The collapse in demand for free range turkeys comes despite warnings from the British Poultry council of a “big, big shortage” of turkeys.
Chief executive of the council, Richard Griffiths, told the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee the shortage is a result of the worst bird flu outbreak “ever seen” this year,
Over 1.6 million birds were culled as of November 20 amid an outbreak that has seen available free range bird numbers halve to 600,000.
Total UK turkey production for Christmas was around 8.5 to 9 million birds, but around a million have so far been culled or died from bird flu.
Poultry farmer Paul Kelly, of Kelly Turkeys, described the situation as “devastating” for farmers.
He told the committee this week: “To give you an example, we had one farmer with 9,500 (birds).
“The first infection was on Thursday evening, 20 mortality, and by Monday lunchtime they were all dead.”
Despite the comments, supermarkets are expected to buy in turkeys from abroad – but at a considerable cost.
In Poland, for example, import prices have more than doubled and this could be reflected in UK store prices, the Daily Mail reports.
Most major supermarket groups have so far been relaxed about turkey availability come December.
In October, Tesco said it expected to be able to satisfy demand, while Sainsbury’s said earlier this month it had ordered more birds for 2022 to give it a buffer in case the crisis hindered supply.
Marks & Spencer, which typically sells one in four fresh turkeys consumed at Christmas, said it had strong plans to protect supply.
Other products expected to be in short supply for customers over the holidays include eggs, aubergines, tomatoes and goose.
/ 3 hours ago
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