Between 700,000 and 800,000 turkeys will be killed for the Christmas market before 18 December, chair of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) poultry committee Nigel Sweetnam has said.

The turkeys, making up approximately half of the 1.5m the sector produces annually, will be processed and on supermarket shelves by 20 December.

Sweetman said the sector has so far “survived remarkably intact” despite the pressures of bird flu.

As turkey growers have faced rising feed, energy and biosecurity costs, he encouraged consumers to “buy Irish and buy the whole turkey” this Christmas.

“This is the season of the harvest. People can acknowledge the effort that’s gone into producing,” he said.

Avian influenza

The IFA poultry committee chair said the sector is “lucky” it “called for the housing order” in early November to avoid further spread of bird flu.

He said the “proactive action” by the Department of Agriculture and poultry farmers has enabled the sector to “perform very well”, despite the additional biosecurity measures and unlike the significant incidence of disease seen in the UK.

“The only thing to disrupt the [turkey] supply now is the imported stuff. There’ll be very little from the UK,” he said.

Sweetnam described how the 1% of the turkey flock, culled in Co Monaghan following the detection of bird flu last month, “won’t impact” domestic supply.

“The Department has done trojan work in keeping the food chain safe,” he said.

He described how regular farm inspections and the work of poultry farmers has ensured there will be sufficient turkey to enjoy this Christmas.

Read more

Poultry housing order issued as bird flu threat remains

British turkeys ‘dropping like flies’ as bird flu ravages sector