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Push to get game on Christmas tables as turkey supply falters

Have a pheasant not a turkey for your Christmas dinner, is the message from the game meat sector as turkey supplies falter.

Turkey calling

Turkey production and particularly farming of the free range birds has been hit by a perfect storm of disease and cost increases, which has pushed up prices and slashed the number of birds reaching the supply chain.

Giving evidence to Parliament’s EFRA committee, Richard Griffiths of the British Poultry Council explained how severe the situation is. He said: “the usual number of free range birds grown for Christmas is probably around 1.2 to 1.3 million. We have seen around 600,000 free-range birds directly affected”.

Of the usual 8.5-9 million birds produced for Christmas, a million have now either died of bird flu or been culled. Meanwhile the outbreak continues to heavily affect the key goose and turkey producing areas in East Anglia.

Cost skyrockets

While the availability of turkeys plummets and the cost of them skyrockets, British Game Assurance has been quick to point out that there is a great alternative, which is healthy, tasty and traditional. BGA CEO Liam Stokes said: “Some butchers and farm shops are having to sell high-welfare geese and turkeys for extraordinary money this year, while the traditional Christmas pheasant is as affordable as ever. We’ve seen local butchers having to charge £35 for a turkey crown, yet less than ten pounds for a brace of pheasants.

“Game is readily available in local shops, supermarkets and online. For the ethical shopper, this Christmas is a perfect time to make the switch to wild.”

Home cooks were keen to share their favourite Christmas pheasant ideas with Shooting Times. Keen shot and even keener cook Alan Crail told Shooting Times that he enjoys a spin on Nick Nairn’s pheasant and apple recipe which uses chervil, chestnuts and pancetta. However his brother Alan advocated “the classic pheasant stuffed with sage and onion and covered with bacon.”

If you don’t have a friendly gamekeeper nearby supermarkets including Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Aldi are all stocking a range of game this Christmas.