TURKEY farmers are warning households could miss out on their Christmas Day roasts because of bird flu and soaring energy costs.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) say the poultry sector has experienced a “very difficult year”, which could leave some farmers struggling to keep up with demand.
1Turkey farmers are warning households could miss out on their Christmas Day turkeyCredit: Getty
The UK produces nearly a billion birds a year for eating as meat, and produces nine to 10 million turkeys for Christmas alone.
But the UK has faced its largest-ever outbreak of bird flu, or avian flu (AI), in the past year, with 190 cases confirmed across the country since late October 2021.
And there has been a staggering 55 cases declared in just three weeks, according to data from the Animal and Plant Health Agency.
Nearly 3.5million birds have been culled in total.
The situation is particularly severe in East Anglia where commercial bird keepers are being hit.
Mandatory housing measures for all poultry and captive birds in Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Essex were introduced earlier in October.
But the disease isn’t the only concern farmers have this year.
Soaring energy bills and input costs have also put pressure on producers as they head into their busiest time of the year.
NFU poultry board chair James Mottershead said: “Turkey producers are working hard to maintain production in the face of AI, as well as soaring energy and input costs, to ensure there remains an ample supply of British turkeys this Christmas.
“We will continue to work with the government to minimise the impacts of any future outbreaks of avian influenza so that we do not experience another year like this one.”
But some experts, such as UK chief veterinary officer Dr Christine Middlemiss, believe there is still hope that shortages can be avoided.
She said: “Whilst it’s devastating for those particular companies affected, in the overall food supply at the moment we don’t believe it’s going to have a significant impact.”
Government officials said the risk to public health from the virus is very low and properly cooked poultry and eggs are safe to eat.
A Defra group spokesperson said: “These outbreaks are distressing for farmers but the number of birds affected is a small proportion of the overall supply and is unlikely to affect the availability of Christmas turkeys.”
It isn’t the first time this year that shoppers have had to deal with shortages.
Shoppers noticed limits on some grocery staples earlier this year, such as bottles of cooking oil, eggs and bread.
Some of these shortages were due to the conflict in Ukraine, with the war causing significant disruption to production.
But fans of big chains like KFC, Pizza Hut and Burger King are also warning strike action could cause disruption to food supplies in the run-up to Christmas.
The GMB Union said the fast food chains could be impacted by shortages if staff at one of its suppliers down tools.