Half of the UK’s Christmas turkeys were lost to an outbreak of bird flu

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Britons may struggle to get a free-range turkey or goose for the Christmas table this year after an industry boss said half of them have died or been culled due to the outbreak of bird flu. big ever in the country.

Richard Griffiths, chief executive of the British Poultry Council, told lawmakers that British farmers typically produce between 1.2 and 1.3 million free-range birds over the festive period.

“We’ve seen about 600,000 of these birds in the wild being directly affected,” he said.

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Giving evidence to Parliament’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Griffiths said the total Christmas turkey production in the UK is usually between 8.5 and 9 million birds. Of these, just over a million have died or been slaughtered.

I didn’t know what the impact on prices would be.

“That’s really a question for retailers at this point. We don’t know how the gaps are going to be filled within retail,” he said.

The UK will face a likely Christmas turkey shortage as more than half of the Commonwealth's free-ranging turkeys have been culled due to rising cases of bird flu.

The UK will face a likely Christmas turkey shortage as more than half of the Commonwealth’s free-ranging turkeys have been culled due to rising cases of bird flu.
(REUTERS/Matthew Childs)

So far, the major supermarket groups have been relatively relaxed in their public statements about turkey availability at Christmas.

Market leader Tesco said in October it expected to be able to meet demand, while earlier this month Sainsbury’s said it had ordered more turkeys for Christmas this year than last year, giving -a buffer in case the crisis hampers supply.

In addition, Marks & Spencer, which typically sells one in four fresh turkeys consumed in the UK at Christmas, said it had robust plans to protect supplies.

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However, poultryman Paul Kelly told the committee that “there will be a big, big shortage of free-range British turkeys on the shelves this year”, noting that “the biggest effect has been on the supermarkets “.

Griffiths said there had been nearly 140 cases of bird flu in the UK since the start of October, with 1.6 million birds culled.

He said 36% of UK poultry farms were now subject to bird flu controls, meaning birds must be kept indoors.

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“So it’s huge and the … costs to industry and food production are potentially huge.”

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