Warning over 'severe' Christmas turkey shortage due to bird flu outbreak

1 November 2022, 06:40

Bird flu is expected to cause a turkey shortage over Christmas
Bird flu is expected to cause a turkey shortage over Christmas. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Farmers have warned turkey could be off the menu this Christmas due to bird flu causing "severe" shortages.

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They have described the current situation as "unbelievably bad" as bird flu cases continue to soar.

From November 7, birdkeepers in England will be legally required to house their poultry indoors in a bid to tackle the spread.

The move is an extension of measures already in force in Suffolk, Norfolk and parts of Essex from early October.

The national risk of bird flu in wild birds has increased and is now considered to be very high, with the UK facing its largest outbreak of bird flu over the past year.

More than 200 cases have been confirmed since late October 2021.

Read more: UK’s chief veterinary officer orders bird and poultry owners across England to keep flocks indoors as bird flu cases soar

Christmas turkey could be off the table this year
Christmas turkey could be off the table this year. Picture: Alamy

Mark Gorton, managing director of Traditional Norfolk Poultry, said if the situation continues there could be "severe shortages" this festive season.

The UK produces nearly a billion birds a year for eating as meat and, for Christmas, produces between nine and 10 million turkeys.

Mr Gorton told The Independent: "It's been unbelievably bad. It's off the scale - worse than anything we've seen before.

"There will be a big impact on the Christmas market. It's going to be quite bad. If it carries on the way it is, we're going to be seeing severe shortages."

Despite the culling of nearly 3.5 million birds, food supplies should not be significantly affected, UK chief veterinary officer Dr Christine Middlemiss said previously.

The UK Health Security Agency said the risk to public health from the virus is very low, while the Food Standards Agency said it poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers, with properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, safe to eat.