Could Turkey be off The Great British Menu this Christmas?

The poultry industry is struggling to hire enough Turkey-Pluckers after the traditional EU-sourced workforce has been gobbled up by Brexit.

The Shortfall? It is estimated an additional 5,000 seasonal workers will be needed to pluck, slaughter, weigh, hang and eviscerate some 2.5 million British turkeys.

Traditional Farm Fresh Turkey Association (TFTA) spokesperson Kate Martin says that British supermarket shelves will be hit harder by a shortage of EU labour than small farms who employ local workers.

British turkey will therefore almost certainly increase in price, with the shortfall being filled by French imports. This has led the British Poultry Council (BPC) to fear a two-tier food system where high-quality British food will be out of reach for the average consumer

So what are the options on the table?

1) Extending temporary visas to foreign poultry workers

There has already been an announcement from the government that 5,500 poultry workers will be able to join the UK workforce until Christmas Eve – but there are fears the take-up for this offer will be low.

And with Covid-19 and quarantine now entering the room, we learn this workforce shortage is not all down to Brexit…

2) An urgent exemption from Covid-related quarantine

The two-week quarantine requirement in the UK does a lot to hamper the typical two-month contract of the EU seasonal worker arriving at the end of October.

A type of quarantine exemption would certainly be helpful, but there will need to be a delicate balancing act given the Covid-friendly environment inevitably provided by meat processing facilities (these setups require far more stringent Heath & Safety policies in place to keep the workforce and local community safe).

And, if you think this is the fix, don’t forget about the CO2 shortage (yes, we are running short of this too).

Our CO2 shortage is a problem due to a whopping 80% of British poultry being put to sleep with – you’ve guessed it – Carbon Dioxide.

3) Embrace the alternatives

If French turkey is not the British consumer’s choice then maybe a classic Beef Wellington, rib of beef, or even venison saddle will be equally satisfying and quintessentially British.

(Chicken, capon, goose and duck were also considered – alas, after having a gander, these all have feathers too)

4) Go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for this all to blow over

Sometimes it is hard to argue with Simon Pegg’s logic in the classic, Shaun of the Dead.

After all, we will be back to normal sometime soon… won’t we?