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    Fewer gobbles at Christmas! Turkey farmer is rearing SMALLER birds for the big day because Rule of Six will mean a reduced number of relatives for dinner

    • Turkey farmer Mark Chilcott has prepared for smaller gatherings over Christmas
    • His farm ordered a smaller breed of turkeys in April in anticipation of lockdown
    • Means families following Rule Of Six will have smaller turkeys to choose from 
    • Mr Chilcott, 58, has run Chilcott Turkeys in Dorset for more than 30 years 

    A turkey farmer has been rearing smaller birds as a Rule-Of-Six Christmas will mean there are fewer mouths to feed.

    Mark Chilcott, 58, placed an order for turkeys in April that would grow to be half the usual size because he suspected coronavirus rules would still be in place by December.

    The chicks hatched in June and his farm in Dorchester, Dorset, now has 1,200 birds – down on the 1,500 it usually rears.

    Instead of supplying plump birds in excess of 22lbs in weight the turkeys will be around half the size to ensure families aren’t facing a mass amount of leftovers on Boxing Day.

    Mark Chilcott (pictured), 58, placed an order for turkeys in April that would grow to be half the usual size because he suspected coronavirus rules would still be in place by December

    The turkeys should be ideal for feeding six people.

    He said: ‘We order a range of sizes every year and have to place what we want in April.

    ‘At the time we thought there could be restrictions in place and so we tried to anticipate demand for smaller strand bronze turkeys.

    ‘Most years we have birds over 22lbs but this year we’ve got much more at around 11lbs.

    ‘I think supply and demand could be tight this year anyway with fewer people going abroad so its a case of making the best of it.’

    The chicks hatched in June and his farm in Dorchester, Dorset, now has 1,200 birds - down on the 1,500 it usually rears. Pictured, the smaller birds with Mr Chilcott

    The chicks hatched in June and his farm in Dorchester, Dorset, now has 1,200 birds – down on the 1,500 it usually rears. Pictured, the smaller birds with Mr Chilcott

    Instead of supplying plump birds in excess of 22lbs in weight the turkeys will be around half the size to ensure families aren't facing a mass amount of leftovers on Boxing Day

    Instead of supplying plump birds in excess of 22lbs in weight the turkeys will be around half the size to ensure families aren’t facing a mass amount of leftovers on Boxing Day

    Mr Chilcott, who has run Chilcott Turkeys for more than 30 years, still has a small number of larger birds for those who enjoy a week of turkey sandwiches post-Christmas. 

    The farm is also setting up a Covid-secure drive-through collection service so customers don’t have to get out of their cars.

    A 10lb turkey from Chilcotts will cost £53.

    He added: ‘We are only a small producer but we are working hard to make ourselves Covid secure.

    ‘We are offering a click and collect service and will have a drive-through pick-up facility so people won’t even have to get out of their car.’ 

    Mr Chilcott, who has run Chilcott Turkeys for more than 30 years, still has a small number of larger birds for those who enjoy a week of turkey sandwiches post-Christmas

    Mr Chilcott, who has run Chilcott Turkeys for more than 30 years, still has a small number of larger birds for those who enjoy a week of turkey sandwiches post-Christmas

    Last week it was revealed other turkey farmers are putting their birds on crash diets after realising they could struggle to sell larger examples.

    Since there is no inkling of the rule being lifted in time for Christmas, farmers aren’t expecting to sell the nine million turkeys they usually do every festive season in the UK. 

    With just three months until the big day, it is too late to grow smaller birds.

    Instead the industry has been working at ways to slim down some of the nine million that were born in the spring.

    This is expected to range from changing food rations to slaughtering them earlier than planned. 

    Farmers usually hatch their turkeys in the spring and then spend the summer fattening them up for Christmas dinners. 

    The farm is also setting up a Covid-secure drive-through collection service so customers don't have to get out of their cars

    The farm is also setting up a Covid-secure drive-through collection service so customers don’t have to get out of their cars

    A 10lb turkey from Chilcotts will cost £53. He added: 'We are only a small producer but we are working hard to make ourselves Covid secure'

    A 10lb turkey from Chilcotts will cost £53. He added: ‘We are only a small producer but we are working hard to make ourselves Covid secure’

    Last week it was revealed other turkey farmers are putting their birds on crash diets after realising they could struggle to sell larger examples

    Last week it was revealed other turkey farmers are putting their birds on crash diets after realising they could struggle to sell larger examples

    However, Nick Davis, who runs Usk Vale Poultry in south Wales, has come up with an inventive plan to get the most from his birds.  

    He usually raises 70,000 turkeys for the festive season but reduced his order to 56,000 in the spring when it wasn’t clear whether families would be able to gather for Christmas. 

    He told The Sunday Times: ‘We have to decide what size people want and you can’t even tell me today what size that might be. 

    ‘We can play around with rations a bit, and we can slaughter them a week or 10 days earlier, so we can reduce the size to a certain extent.’  

    And the chief executive of the British Poultry Council, Richard Griffiths, told MailOnline some turkey’s could be slaughtered early and then frozen until Christmas. 

    Since there is no inkling of the rule being lifted in time for Christmas, farmers aren't expecting to sell the nine million turkeys they usually do every festive season in the UK

    Since there is no inkling of the rule being lifted in time for Christmas, farmers aren’t expecting to sell the nine million turkeys they usually do every festive season in the UK

    However, his plan won’t work for customers who want fresh, free-range turkeys for their dinners. 

    Of Mr Chilcott’s plan to rear smaller birds, Mr Griffiths said: ‘The majority of poultry farmers have not done this. It is a case-by-case basis and depends on whether the farmers expected lockdown. 

    ‘We weren’t aware of the restrictions in place at the time the turkeys would have been ordered and those breeding decision would have been made in well advance, I’m sure even before April. 

    ‘We’ve got nine million British turkeys that will be ready for the Christmas season and the demand in recent years has been towards smaller birds and some of the farmers have ordered smaller size breeds which is understandable. 

    Of Mr Chilcott's plan to rear smaller birds, the chief executive of the British Poultry Council, Richard Griffiths, said: 'The majority of poultry farmers have not done this. It is a case-by-case basis and depends on whether the farmers expected lockdown'

    Of Mr Chilcott’s plan to rear smaller birds, the chief executive of the British Poultry Council, Richard Griffiths, said: ‘The majority of poultry farmers have not done this. It is a case-by-case basis and depends on whether the farmers expected lockdown’

    ‘There’s more demand for specific cuts of the meat so we expect that to carry on this Christmas.’

    He said he hoped customers would ‘order early’ to help farmers better prepare their birds for the demand. 

    ‘From our perspective people should be ordering early and taking orders early from supermarkets to help farmers to plan better,’ he added.

    ‘I think we’re a long way away from being able to switch to smaller birds the only thing that can be done is if they’re ordered early. 

    Despite the vocal opposition from some quarters, the Rule of Six passed with ease in the Commons last night

    Despite the vocal opposition from some quarters, the Rule of Six passed with ease in the Commons last night

    ‘In that specific case they’d have to be frozen to maintain shelf life. If people can’t get together for Christmas it might be worth getting a slightly larger birds rather than missing out and then eating it over the next couple of days.’

    A butchers’ chain called The Ginger Pig usually gets more than 5,000 orders for turkeys, geese and duck at Christmas but they are now facing challenges thanks to social-distancing measures. 

    The operations director said that slaughtering a bird early means some of its flavour will be lost, so they are looking to put turkeys on diets and take them to full maturity. 

    It comes amid a continued decline in the popularity of the traditional Christmas meat.

    In 2003 a whopping two million turkeys were hatched for Christmas but that dropped to just 1.4million last year. 

    Lynsey Coughlan added that there had been a shift in demand from turkeys to more expensive birds such as duck, sold for £45, and goose, sold for £18 per kilogram, because families are treating themselves after a stressful year. 

    She said: ‘People call up and say ”I’m thinking of doing a goose”. 

    ‘We’re like ”good call, madam” because it’s the traditional six-person bird.’ 

    She thinks that customers won’t be put off by turkeys being so large and believes that they may decide to eat the meat over a few days.  

    The turkey industry has been seeing a stead decline in demand since 2003 when 22million birds were consumed. Whereas last year just 14million were purchased.  

    Last night MPs overwhelmingly backed the controversial Rule of Six in a Commons vote.

    The turkey industry has been seeing a stead decline in demand since 2003

    Last year just 14million were purchased. Pictured, Mr Chilcott

    The turkey industry has been seeing a stead decline in demand since 2003 when 22million birds were consumed. Whereas last year just 14million were purchased. Pictured, Mr Chilcott

    The Covid-19 regulations which enforce the rules on gatherings in England was passed by 287 votes to 17 – a majority of 270 –  in Westminster.

    The regulations are already in force, with the motion simply offering a retrospective vote on it. 

    And last week the prime minister stressed  the Government would do ‘everything we can to make sure Christmas for everybody is as normal as possible’. 

    His comments came in an interview with ITVNews Anglia when he was asked if families of five would be allowed to have both grandparents round for the festive feast. 

    At the end of September, a desperate PM pleaded for Britons to ‘save Christmas’ by obeying his Rule of Six.

    In an interview with The Sun, justifying the rolling out of a series of draconian measures to flatten the spike of the virus, he warned: ‘The only way to make sure the country is able to enjoy Christmas is to be tough now.’ 

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