Christmas 2020: Stop fattening up turkeys and reduce food waste

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Time to put the birds on a diet.

It’s going to be a socially distanced Christmas, and this is going to lead to massive food waste.

With fewer people in households celebrating the festive season, it looks like we’re going to be buying – and not eating – far too much Christmas food.

That means, according to food waste collection experts BusinessWaste.co.uk, we’ll be wasting more than usual as people scale down their celebrations. That’s why we’re going to need smaller turkeys!

Company spokesman Mark Hall explains, “People are used to splashing out on big family gatherings, but if we are adhering to the rule of six, more food will go to waste.”
“The extra meat from big turkeys will end up going in the bin, unless of course you think your closest five relatives can stomach turkey curry all the way to New Year.”

The bigger the bird, the bigger the waste

Roast dinner on Christmas day is a cornerstone of British culture, with around 10 million turkeys eaten over the festive period in the UK.

But for a lot of people at the moment, planning Christmas celebrations is up in the air while the government consider whether it’ll be a lockdown Christmas, or if there is the opportunity to celebrate with friends and family.

Business Waste are worried that this uncertainty over how many people we can celebrate with will have a knock-on effect over how much food people will buy for the festivities, with the potential of people overbuying ‘just in case’.

“What we’re going to see is people going out and buying the same amount of food they’ve been buying every Christmas, on the off-chance they’ll get to spend the day with their extended families,” says spokesman Mark Hall.

“But if we are back to the rule of six, this will mean a lot of food will not get eaten and will end up in the bin – especially turkeys.”

Christmas usually generates a lot waste each year, with wrapping paper and present packaging – but in a year where we’ve experienced bare shelves in supermarkets and an increase in food bank use, excessive food waste is just unacceptable.

The biggest worry is that despite any potential relaxing of the Covid rules, many people will be scaling down their Christmas celebrations regardless, so larger turkeys will get left on the supermarket shelves and will ultimately be thrown away.

Hall: “Thinking out of the box – maybe turkey farmers should look at producing smaller birds in the future so curb the excess waste. Anyone having a larger gathering could always cook more than one if needed.”

Is there any way we can stop fattening this year’s turkeys?

Essentially – a little bit, but not completely.

Turkey farmers ordered their birds at the start of the year when the outlook for Christmas 2020 seemed just like any other, but as the year progressed, they found themselves with a decreasing demand for larger birds that were able to feed upwards of six people.

“During the first lockdown, we were all optimistic that we would be able to return to a sense of normality by Christmas,” says company spokesman Mark Hall.

“A lot of people working in the Christmas industry had to make big decisions way back in the summer months about the supply and demand in December, and unfortunately there will be birds that are too big meaning farmers will lose out on sales.”

Nick Davis from Usk Vale Poultry is one of the turkey farmers who is concerned that his produce will be too big for consumers this Christmas.
Davies told the BBC that his farm has “a bit of flexibility”.

“We can play around with rations a bit, and we can process [slaughter them] a week or 10 days earlier, so we can reduce the size to a certain extent, but not by massive percentages.”

Turkey farmer Fintan Hogan in Ireland is also worried that smaller gatherings will impact his business, “If two or three families get together, they might get a 9kg or 10kg turkey. However, I’m expecting a bigger demand for the 4kg or 5kg size.”

Luckily, there could be a silver lining for these ‘plucky’ farmers, as more people may be staying at home for Christmas instead of going out, so turkey sales may be higher than ever.

Hall: “The demand for turkeys is there, it’s just the sizing that is a bit off so people will have to get creative with the leftovers.

“No more turkey curry though, I’m begging you.”

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