As we face slimmed down gatherings for Christmas dinner this year due to the rule of six, farmers are now desperate to slim down their turkeys in time – by putting them on a diet.
Current restrictions in England say people are only allowed to meet in any outdoor or indoor setting in groups of six or less.
Boris Johnson has said the Government will do ‘everything we can’ to ensure the holiday is as ‘normal as possible’ but turkey farmers are erring on the side of caution.
Some have already placed their birds on drastic diets – replacing corn feed with wheat, which contains less protein.
Around nine million turkeys are eaten on Christmas day.
Lawnhead House Farm, near Eccleshall, Stafford, usually rears festive birds weighing a hefty two stone – which can feed double the current household limit.
A spokeswoman for Lawnhead House, which has been rearing turkeys since 1935, said: “We know families are not going to be as big, but we believe the birds need that ‘finish’ on them.
“As far as weight is concerned, the weather can make a lot of difference. If they are in a paddock in the wet, they won’t be putting as much weight on.”
Edward Calcott of family business Wiggington Fields Farm, near Tamworth, which has 2,000 turkeys, is monitoring the decline in oversized specimens.
He and his family have introduced wheat to the flock’s diet, but Edward admits there’s little that can be done to stop them growing.
“You can’t do a lot – it’s genetics,” he said. “One plan is to provide customers with ‘left overs’ recipes.”
One farmer told us he made the decision to rear smaller birds back in March. Mike Atwell, of Atwell Farm Park in Redditch, told BirminghamLive: “It had nothing to do with me thinking the virus would put a limit on the number people allowed over for Christmas dinner.
“During lockdown, a lot of people went on furlough and I just didn’t think many families would be able to afford a big bird.”
However J Leese, based in Hollington, Staffordshire, – a business that prepares 3,500 turkeys every week in the run-up to Christmas – is still experiencing a demand for big birds.
But the continued demand hinges on the Government’s coronavirus rules for the season.
Richard Griffiths, chief executive of the British Poultry Council has urged families to continue to think big when buying birds to support the industry.