November edition: Turkey time

It only seems a minute ago that it was the height of summer, with sweltering temperatures. Now suddenly the clocks have gone back, the swallows have returned to warmer climates and Christmas is around the corner. For many people Christmas is a joyful holiday filled with festivities. At home, Christmas means something rather different, turkeys!

The turkeys arrive mid-august at 5 weeks old in a temperature-controlled lorry. Everyone is roped in to unloading them from their temporary crates, where they are counted and welcomed to their new home. Some people may think that the turkeys suffer from boredom, but not those at Smiths Farm. CD’s hang from the roof which the turkeys peck at for enrichment, they also act as a mirror-turkeys are very vain! However, our turkeys main love is stinging nettles. They adore them, devouring the bunches that are picked daily within minutes. Over the turkey’s lifetime they have 3 different types of feed: starter, grower and finisher. Each feed contains varying levels of protein, starch and minerals to achieve each goal for their stage of life. In the final few weeks their feed is supplemented with oats to promote a nice plump finish. Dad has been producing turkeys for 51 years now, so you could say he is a turkey expert!

An interesting attribute of a turkey’s digestive tract is they have two stomachs. The first stomach is the proventriculus, which is like our stomach; food is mixed with acid to promote softening. Unlike humans, the feed then enters the second stomach called a gizzard. This physically grinds the feed using stones/grit that the birds have eaten. Turkeys are fed grit just like feed to allow for effective absorption of nutrients from the feed.

At Smiths Farm, turkey production starts at the beginning of December. The turkeys are dispatched, hand plucked and then hung for 2-3 weeks. This prolonged period of hanging ensures a rich moist flavour, one you don’t get with supermarket birds! The turkeys are then butchered and start their journey to your Christmas table.