Ireland stuffed with Italian turkeys

The Irish Farmers Association is warning consumers could be sold a turkey — literally — with Italian turkeys flooding the Irish market.

Last year saw a decline in the number of turkeys being slaughtered in Ireland, from 1.2m birds to 765,000, with imported processed Italian turkeys making up the difference.

A spokesperson for Bord Bia said Irish turkey numbers peaked in 2005, when 3.8m birds were slaughtered.

“In 2000-2005, we processed on average 3.6m turkeys annually, with a peak of 3.8m in 2005. Numbers have declined year-on-year in the interim period, with 976,000 processed last year,” said the spokesperson.

“Over the 2000-2005 period, the Christmas kill averaged 1.2m birds. This has fallen to 765,000 in 2011. The principal cause in this has been the influx of Italian turkeys for the Christmas market, which are sold through the wholesale butcher’s sector. Irish people are expected to eat about 700,000 turkeys this Christmas, and imports from Italy will account for about 24% of those.”

The Irish Farmers’ Association has called on authorities to insure there is clarity on where the turkeys people buy are coming from.

“It should be clear to consumers exactly where there turkey is coming from,” said an IFA spokesperson. “People want to support local produce and they can not do this if they don’t know where the food is coming from.”

However, even Irish turkeys often gobble in a French or British accent. Most turkeys raised here have been imported as chicks from either the UK or France before being fattened for christmas in Ireland.

Poultry producer John Kent said that, at one stage, Ireland had a thriving poultry industry but since the ban on selling turkeys at marts was introduced in 1999, the industry has collapsed in Ireland but grown in Britain and the North.

“Poultry in Northern Ireland and Britain is rapidly growing,” said Mr Kenny.

“In Northern Ireland, they are producing 4.5m eggs a week. In the south, we are importing a lot of these as day old chicks.”

However, the IFA said farmers add a lot of value in fattening turkeys and preparing them for the Christmas table.

“Hatch chicks are brought to farmers at a very young age,” said a spokesperson for the IFA. “The value is added in the fattening which creates economic activity and generates business for the industry.”


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