With stories emerging that many turkeys won’t be flying onto our dinner tables this year, turkey farmers from across Scotland speak out about the pressures they are now under to meet the demand in time for Christmas.
Following reports that there could be a turkey shortage this festive season as supply chain and supermarkets become increasingly impacted by the “pingdemic” and delays on imports as a result of Brexit, some local turkey farmers have been feeling the pressure, with several claiming to have had an upsurge in orders during August.
One such turkey farmer facing unprecedented demand is Craig Michie from Inverurie’s Barra Bronzes in the north-east.
“We have seen chaotic panic buying,” he said.
“Sales are up 220% last year and folk were phoning in to order Christmas dinner in August. We have never seen anything like this.
“During the panic buying last year we saw a big upturn but what we’ve seen this year is just unbelievable.”
‘Not enough to meet demand’
With turkey farmers such as Craig feeling the pressure, he fears the demand is going to get worse in the build up to the Christmas rush.
“To be honest, I don’t think we are going to have enough turkeys to meet demand, which is also unusual for us,” he adds.
“You can sense the panic among customers that there’s not going to be enough. I think after the year that everyone’s had and now with people being vaccinated, they’re wanting to have all the family round this year. They want to get it right, that’s why people are ordering early.
“I think the panic buying with turkeys is going to get worse. Even on the farm, anything you order in terms of equipment or machinery parts, there’s just shortages and delays on everything, everywhere. I don’t think food is going to be that different.
“If we sell out we will have to close our orders. There’s only a certain amount of birds available and that’s it.
“We never thought we’d have a year like last year but it’s just accelerated already in terms of orders.”
People want better quality
Meanwhile, in another area of the north-east, Becky Perry from Ledmacoy Turkeys in Strathdon, has also seen an upsurge in demand, but feels that much of it is down to consumers becoming more aware of good-quality local produce.
“I think a lot of the demand is due to people wanting to buy better quality produce and knowing they might not necessarily get that from a supermarket,” Becky says.
“There is a big price difference between our turkeys and supermarket turkeys but that’s mainly because of the length that they live and what we feed them. Our turkeys aren’t intensively reared.
“I think people have started to become more aware of what they eat and are more concerned about better taste.”
Steady flow of orders
As a heavily-restricted Christmas took place last year, with hopes high that things will resemble a more “normal” Christmas this year, Becky also believes the surge in orders is to do with that more than recent reports of shortages.
“After last year with Christmas being cancelled so soon, this year it’s as though people really want to make Christmas happen and so are organising their turkey now,” she adds.
“A couple of weeks ago there were some news articles about shortages at Christmas and I got a lot of queries on the back of that about when I was going to open my order books.
“Since then it’s been a steady flow of orders, which was more unusual for August. We don’t normally get so many queries about why we haven’t yet opened our books.
“We sold out really early last year and that was definitely because of the pandemic and people worrying about what they were going to do. There were some people getting an extra turkey from us just in case things changed.”
People can still order
At South Powrie Farm, just north of Dundee, Susannah Pate has seen a noticeable rise in early orders this year, but is reassuring her regular customers that she will make sure they have a turkey on their table.
She said: “I know that the supply chain and the HGV crisis is impacting some of the bigger retailers, but because we are a direct-to-consumer business we are planning to operate as usual.
“That also means we will have the same numbers as usual and will make sure there is a Christmas turkey for everyone on their table.
“That said, there has been a noticeable surge in our orders and higher numbers than usual at this time of year, but I wouldn’t say we are about to close our order books next week.”
Many birds still available
But in the business of turkeys, there’s only a certain number to go around each year, but Susannah isn’t expecting her loyal customer base to waiver with many birds still available.
“We usually take orders from about October onwards,” she adds.
“Though last year it was a little bit earlier with Covid. I think people were planning ahead but this year, certainly in July and August, we’ve taken more orders than we usually would.
“We just work on the basis that if there are turkeys available then people can still order them. If we had to close the books early then we would but we have a very loyal customer base and have been coming to us for years.
“I think those customers know that our website is open year-round now and that they can order any time but once the turkeys are sold, they’re sold.”