Feeling a little peck-ish this Christmas? One Wearside farm has the answer, as Alison Goulding found out
DESPITE the country’s money troubles, it seems people are still happy to spend when it comes to Christmas dinner.
The KellyBronze turkeys of Murton Moor Farm are flying off the shelves as usual.
Judith Dryden, husband Martin, son Richard and their eight part-time staff are hard at work preparing the birds for their final destination.
Judith said: “People do buy a smaller bird but it’s Christmas, they save up to make it special.
“We sell a lot of 5kg birds that feed six to eight people which is plenty for most people.
“That said, we have already sold three 11kg turkeys and they feed 22 people. One is going to Brancepeth Castle.”
Raising the 600 black-feathered turkeys takes a lot of time and effort.
Judith explained: “The turkey chicks arrive in June when they are one day old and then mature on the farm.
“They’re tiny at first and I check them every three hours. At five weeks they’ve got their feathers and they can go outside. They spend their days out on the field and then we lock them in the barn at night to keep them safe from foxes.
“They eat grass and insects and we let them mature slowly, with no growth hormones or medicine. That’s how they get their flavour.”
The turkeys are free-range and can choose if they want to be outside or in the barn.
During the rain Judith found a novel way to keep them happy.
She said: “When it rained really heavily we put lots of newspapers in the barn for them. They like to peck them and make them rustle. It kept them entertained when they couldn’t go out.”
Judith believes the popularity of the birds is down to their flavour and their quality of life compared to battery-farmed birds.
She said: “In November we did an open day for the first time and 200 people turned up. They want to know the bird they eat has been well cared for.
“We slaughter them on the farm and hang the meat for 10 to 14 days to enhance the flavour. Then we get them oven-ready so the customer gets their turkey in a box with herbs, cooking instructions and tips for leftovers.
“The meat is very moist with a dense texture. It’s not the dry, crumbly stuff that needs lots of gravy because it’s matured properly.” The Dryden’s started the KellyBronze franchise 14 years ago as an add-on to the farm work.
Judith said: “Our main business is arable but we wanted to do something to give the men some work in the winter.
“I found the franchise and learned it had been set up by a Durham man. I thought it was excellent. No one else does KellyBronze turkeys in the North East. We started 14 years ago and then people started asking for goose and I realised no one did them either. We got some Legarth geese and they’re really popular. This year we’re sold out.
“They have the same good life as the turkeys. They eat a lot of grass and they loved it when the rain came because they got a lake of their own.
“They make brilliant guard dogs too. If anyone’s about that they don’t know, they shout the place down.”