UK bird flu crisis creates fears of massive Christmas turkey shortages

Image of turkeys on a commercial premises. Credit: Wikipedia - Public Domain,

Industry chiefs in the UK have warned of possible shortages of turkeys over the Christmas period as a result of the current bird flu crisis.


Industry chiefs in the UK warned today, Tuesday, November 29, that consumers face the real possibility of a turkey shortage over the Christmas period. This is a result of the current bird flu crisis that has wiped out huge numbers of not only turkeys but also ducks and geese.

During an inquiry by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA), it was revealed to MPs that around 50 per cent of the country’s free-range birds had either died or been culled because of the avian flu outbreak.

Efra is investigating the impact that the disease has had on British poultry farmers. Addressing the committee, Richard Griffiths, the Chief executive of the British Poultry Council informed them: “‘This year is the worst bird flu outbreak that we have seen, ever”.

He continued: “The usual number of free-range turkeys for Christmas is about 1.2 million to 1.3 million. We have seen around 600,000 of those free-range birds being directly affected. Half of the free range”.

“The total UK production of turkeys is 8.5 million to nine million birds for Christmas. Of those that are Christmas birds, probably just over a million have been culled or died from bird flu”, Mr Griffiths explained.

When quizzed about the possible need for supermarkets and stores to import alternative supplies from abroad, and the potential price increases from this action, Richard Griffiths responded: “That is a question for retailers. We do not know how the gaps within retail are going to be filled”.

It is believed that to import birds from somewhere on the continent, like Poland, the prices have almost doubled due to the expected demand for their produce, as reported by

Paul Kelly, from Kelly Turkeys, a hatchery in Essex, told EFRA: “It has been devastating. As a hatchery business, we supply farmers throughout the country, so I get first-hand experience of when they get infected premises”.

“The challenge for a lot of the smaller seasonal producers is they have their Christmas flock on their farm and when they are infected they all die within four days. At the moment, small independent seasonal producers are being wiped out”, he detailed.

“There will be a big, big shortage of British free-range turkeys on shelves. Spot prices for imported turkey have doubled. Northern Europe has suffered the same problem as we have”, he concluded.

Similar culls have taken place in the Netherlands recently where a farm was found to have an outbreak of bird flu. Around 29,000 chickens were killed as a result.


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Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]