Is turkey for the birds this Christmas?

Woolworths is going cold turkey this Christmas.

The high-end retailer will not have any frozen turkey this year as it has struggled to import from Europe following the outbreak of avian flu.

“We have no frozen turkeys this year as we were not able to import for various reasons‚ including outbreaks of avian flu in potential source countries in the northern hemisphere‚” the company said in an e-mailed response to questions.

“Our policy is that if products do not meet our quality standards‚ we prefer not to sell the product.”

But it will have chilled fresh turkey products and turkey roast portions sourced from countries in the southern hemisphere that have not been affected by avian flu.

Other retailers have made a plan.

Reggie Shanglee‚ the national poultry buyer at Pick n Pay‚ said: “All Pick n Pay stores are fully stocked with imported turkeys for Christmas.”

The retailer‚ which imports its turkey from the US‚ said lamb‚ chicken and duck were also popular during the festive season and were all produced locally by South African farmers.

A spokesperson for Massmart‚ which owns retail brands Game Foods and Cambridge‚ said: “There is always a higher demand for turkeys during this period (and) we believe we can meet our customers’ expectations this season.”

But turkey may also be falling foul of the classic South African meal – the braai.

The spokesperson for Massmart said: “We have also noticed our customers are moving away from turkeys and are choosing braai meat instead.”

The outbreak of avian flu has had an impact on a number of poultry producers around the world‚ limiting production and resulting in projected losses of about R800-million in the Western Cape alone.

Shoprite did not respond to questions.

South African Poultry Association interim CEO Charlotte Nkuna said the US and Brazil were the major turkey suppliers to South Africa.

“South Africa doesn’t have a turkey industry. There was one farmer about 15 to 20 years ago‚ but they gave up due to struggles with diseases and the high cost of production‚” said Nkuna.

She said all South Africa’s turkey was imported‚ but the demand for the meat had remained relatively stable.

By: Palesa Vuyolwethu Tshandu -Sunday Times

Source: TMG Digital.


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