Peter May and partner Lizzie run Tasty Turkeys – a family business in Essex that started in 1970 with just 150 turkeys. The third generation farmers now run the Christmas turkey enterprise alongside their busy agricultural and amenity contracting business including a flourishing biomass business and 12 commercial lets on the farm.
These are the most recent new members of TFTA and delighted to be fully accredited to our Golden Turkey Quality Assurance standard for traditional Christmas turkeys. We asked Peter and Lizzie about their seasonal turkey business…
When did you become an accredited Golden Turkey Farmer and start producing Golden Turkeys for Christmas?
We became TFTA members and accredited Golden Turkey farmers in Spring 2022. We’re family farmers and have been producing turkeys for 50 years but this is our first as a Golden Turkey farmer.
How long have you been a farmer / in farming?
No we don’t.
What do you do in the first 6 months of the year, when not producing turkeys?
We run an agricultural and amenity contracting business, we have a green waste site that recycles wood, logs, brash, etc for biomass power stations, we have 12 commercial units let on the farm and we undertake gritting work in the winter months. We run 5 gritters covering 160 private industrial sites and supermarkets within London, Essex & Herts.
In total we have 4 full time staff and 3 part time. We also take on 20 seasonal staff for Christmas and another 12 self-employed for the winter gritting season.
Have you won any AWARDS for farming, food or your business?
We have not won any awards yet, but I was nominated and became a finalist for the Young Farmer of the Year in the National Arable & Grassland Awards this year.
Apart from selling direct to customers direct – who else do you normally supply Golden Turkeys to?
We only sell approximately 200 turkeys wholesale to two outlets. The remaining turkeys are either sold direct from the farm gate, or to companies as Christmas bonuses for their staff. We do supply a few turkeys to local charities, raffles etc.
What was your first job?
Aside from helping my dad on the farm when I was younger, it was as a harvest student for a local farmer.
I have been in childcare for most of my career and also ran my own tearoom business. I’ve since
come back to work on the farm part time predominantly on the turkey side, whilst looking after our young daughter.
What would you be doing, if you weren’t a farmer?
Peter – I’d have quite liked to have been a fireman.
Lizzie – I’d love to be a midwife.
Tea or Coffee?
Peter: Definitely coffee!
Lizzie: Tea – with lots of milk!
Favourite Book or Film?
Peter: Any James Bond or Fast & Furious films
Lizzie: Not really any favourites I’m afraid!
Chinese – both of us!
Best way to relax after a stressful day?
Peter: Sat in the garden with a cold beer and my family.(In the Summer!)
Lizzie: Bubble bath then pj’s on or sit in the garden.
How has the Corona Virus Pandemic affected your farm life and business?
We made massive changes to our business after COVID. We stopped offering contracting services that weren’t paying their way e.g. agricultural fencing, slimmed our staff down from 4 full time to 1 plus part time help and concentrated on the services that paid well. We also stopped rearing 8,500 turkey stags all year round for a local farmer and converted those buildings into more commercial units. All of this has also allowed us to start concentrating more on expanding our Christmas turkey business, with the aim to be producing 6,000 free range bronze turkeys within the next 10 years.
We provide free turkeys to a local homeless charity at Christmas, plus also provide turkeys as raffle prizes in local fete’s and charity events.
What do you offer for collection or delivery for your local customers?
We currently offer collection for farm gate orders and delivery for the bulk company orders.
Do you offer nationwide delivery?
We don’t currently but we are looking to provide this for this season, as we feel it will open up our market further.
Are you planning to make changes in the way you promote your Christmas turkeys – if local shows and events are in doubt or cancelled for example?
All of our turkeys are either promoted through our Facebook & Instagram pages, word of mouth, enquiries we make to companies directly, mailshots to our existing customers and large trailer signs strategically placed on main roads in the local area.
Which social media platforms do you use for your Christmas Turkey business?
Facebook & Instagram
Which do you prefer?
Both seem to be good, although I think Instagram is exceeding in popularity now.
What do you believe has been the most effective way for you, to gain new customers?
Our trailer signs we put out – they’re 12’ x 8’, mounted high on the trailers and only cost us one turkey per month to the farmer whose land they are displayed on. Cheap advertising!
How have you found the sourcing and management of the seasonal workers, for the processing of the turkeys for Christmas?
Very hard and getting harder every year. The trouble is there is only so much mechanisation you can do to make this work efficiently and to best standards. The rest is down to labour.
Are you looking making any changes to your turkey rearing, production and presentation, above and beyond our Golden Turkey Standard?
We already present our turkeys in our own branded boxes, with greaseproof, our own cooking booklet, a pop rite turkey timer and a sprig of herbs. We have done this for many years now and it’s very popular. The main change we’re making this year is to build a brand new processing area, which is right next door to the rearing sheds. It will make it much less stressful for the birds and much more efficient for us, which in turn we hope will reduce our production costs and make a not-so-pleasant job just that little bit more pleasant!
With attention on our Food and Farming standards in this country and the effects of both the war in Ukraine and Avian Influenza, it’s more important than ever to support your local Golden Turkey Farmer at Christmas – to enjoy a well reared, traditionally produced, delicious roast turkey for Christmas Day – and with plenty spare for tasty meals on Boxing Day and beyond!
If you are a turkey farmer and interested in joining the TFTA to become a Golden Turkey Farmer – please get in contact via the form on the ‘About Us’ section of our website.
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