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Britain facing Christmas turkey shortage

Britain facing Christmas turkey shortage

The good news just keeps on rolling in, eh?

Christmas dinner might look a little different this year as the UK could be facing a turkey shortage.

The good news just keeps on rolling in, eh?

Poultry prices are expected to rise in the winter months due to what's been described as the 'largest ever outbreak of avian influenza' in the UK.

More than 200 cases of bird flu have been confirmed over the past year, and the disease has been detected at over 70 premises.

The UK has experienced its largest ever outbreak of avian influenza.
Tim Scrivener/Alamy Stock Photo

Reports state that since October 2021, around 5.5 million birds have died or been culled, 2.3 million of which occurred this October alone.

With the rapid spread of the disease, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and the Animal and Plant Health Agency have announced new mandatory housing measures for English farmers.

From 7 November, all poultry and captive bird keepers will be required by law to keep the animals indoors and follow strict biosecurity measures to protect their flocks from the influenza.

News of the outbreak was announced on social media.

The British Poultry Council has since warned of rising prices, which have already been exacerbated by issues such as ongoing Brexit pressures and Russia's war on Ukraine.

Farmers have also spoken out on the issue, suggesting that there could very well be a turkey shortage this Christmas.

Tom Copas, who has already been housing his flock of 60,000 free range turkeys on his farm in Berkshire, explained: "It's terrifying right now.

"Our entire business depends on the Christmas market. If we were to get bird flu we would lose everything.

"I know of two seasonal producers who had outbreaks who will never have turkeys again. One produces about a million turkeys for Christmas and they have lost about half of them.

"It's expected that the supermarkets will be at least 20% short, if not more, of their Christmas turkeys."

Meanwhile, the British Poultry Council's chief executive Richard Griffiths warned free-range turkey prices are expected to rise.

"The free-range side of the sector has been heavily hit and, at the moment, we are seeing numbers of about 30-35% of free-range production either being directly affected by the disease or culled because of it," he said.

Turkey might not be on the menu this Christmas.

Although the mandatory housing measures had already been enforced in the hot spot area of Suffolk, Norfolk and parts of Essex, from the 7 November these will apply to the whole of England.

The UK's chief veterinary officer, Christine Middlemiss, explained: "We are now facing this year, the largest ever outbreak of bird flu and are seeing rapid escalation in the number of cases on commercial farms and in backyard birds across England.

"The risk of kept birds being exposed to disease has reached a point where it is now necessary for all birds to be housed until further notice.

"Scrupulous biosecurity and separating flocks in all ways, from wild birds remain the best form of defence.

"Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, from Monday 7 November onwards you must keep your indoors.

"This decision has not been taken lightly, but is the best way to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease."

Featured Image Credit: Magdalena Bujak / Anna Bizoń / Alamy

Topics: UK News, Christmas, Food And Drink