An East Lancashire turkey farmer has weighed in on the Christmas turkey shortage issue after it was recently revealed that the UK could face a “national shortage” of the the bird

Part-owner of Atkinson’s Turkey Farm, in Briercliffe, is “uncertain” whether there will be a UK national shortage and says it’s too early to tell for certain if there will be turkey supply issues at Christmas.

John Atkinson said: “It is what it is. We’re about two and a half months off Christmas and anything can happen.”

However, he insists that his farm has “plenty of turkeys” and currently has more turkeys than he did last year.

Lancashire Telegraph: John Atkinson (Credit: Atkinson Turkey Farm website)John Atkinson (Credit: Atkinson Turkey Farm website)

He said there will be plenty to go around on the family-run farm as long as stockpilers don’t act like they have been with fuel in recent days.  

While supply issues aren't a current concern for the business, John explained that turkey price hikes are inevitable.

He said: “Turkeys will definitely be more expensive this year - not because there is a shortage but because costs have gone up.

“Seed cost has gone up around 16-17 per cent, packaging has gone up– the cost of everything has gone up.”

Lancashire Telegraph: Atkinson’s Turkey Farm (Facebook/Atkinsons Turkeys)Atkinson’s Turkey Farm (Facebook/Atkinsons Turkeys)

Mr Atkinson, from Briercliffe, added that last year small turkeys were typically harder to get hold of – but this year he thinks the opposite will happen.

He explained: “Last year everyone wanted a small turkey because of Covid and people couldn’t get together.

“It was so hard to get a small turkey last year – you just couldn’t get one anywhere.

“This year we are thinking the opposite will happen and people will be eager to get large turkeys because they can get together now.”

As a final message to anxious people who are starting to plan their Christmas, John urges them not to panic.

Lancashire Telegraph: Turkeys at Atkinson's Turkey Farm in Briercliffe (Facebook/Atkinsons Turkeys)Turkeys at Atkinson's Turkey Farm in Briercliffe (Facebook/Atkinsons Turkeys)

He explains: “Carry on as normal. We’ve seen what people have been like this past week with the fuel – people say there will be a shortage and everybody panics. Just don’t panic.

“Christmas will come and Christmas will go and we’re sure everybody will get a turkey.”

Tom Turner, owner of Turner’s Butchers in Darwen, echoed some of the same concerns as John.

He runs his own farms and said a potential turkey shortage “wont be a great worry to [him]”.

He said: “It’s not too bad for me – but I will be selling turkeys on a first-come-first-served basis this year if they want the traditional bird.

“I am lucky enough to have my own farm and rear my own birds so it won’t be a great worry to me.”

Tom said he hasn’t given out his Christmas prices yet but added there are already some high numbers out there.

He said: “What the reality will be when it gets to Christmas I don’t know.

“Turkey prices are a problem [for butchers and turkey farmers] – they’re a problem for everyone.”

Will there be a shortage of supermarket turkeys?

The supposed ‘turkey shortages’ are set to impact local supermarkets more than local farms and independent sellers.

Kate Martin, chairwoman of the Traditional Farm Fresh Turkey Association (TFTA), said that while small British farms that use local workers have been less affected, supermarket shelves are likely to be hit by a shortage of skilled European employees.

The TFTA, which represents producers of high-end free range turkeys, said some poultry farms have already had five times more orders this year than the same time in 2020.

Mrs Martin told the PA news agency: “This year it’s looking like there is a national shortage of turkeys when we’re talking about supermarket shelves, rather than buying direct from your farm.

“It is the supermarket shelves that will be emptier on turkeys this year than they have been before, only because there have been less turkeys placed on the ground, only because the big processers know that they will not get them processed.”

Asked whether supermarkets will run out of turkeys before Christmas, she said: “I think everyone needs to get their orders in very quickly.

“We have seen an absolutely unprecedented number of orders come in.

“Come Christmas, if you leave ordering your turkey from your local farm supplier, you are going to be out of luck.”

The Government has announced it will issue 5,000 temporary visas to foreign lorry drivers to alleviate shortages and 5,500 EU visas for poultry workers, which should help to get turkeys on shelves if people take the jobs in time.

UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls has suggested that similar “Covid recovery visas” should also be introduced to help revitalise the service industry.