PIP 2022/23 – Visiting the business behind 90,000 turkeys

27 February 2024

Franny Hook

Franny Hook

NFU Poultry Industry Programme 2022/23, Hatchery management trainee, PD Hook, South East

A photo of the Poultry Industry Programme participants outside the entrance of KellyBronze Turkeys.

For the final event of the 2022/23 PIP (Poultry Industry Programme), the programme participants had the opportunity to visit KellyBronze Turkeys in Essex. Franny Hook reports.

This was a fantastic opportunity to see the farm-to-fork supply chain behind many of the turkeys we eat at Christmas.

We started the day with a presentation from Paul Kelly on the history of the business and the current market.It all began in 1971 when his father Derek Kelly, a respected figure in the turkey industry, left the corporate world to start the family business.

Still a family-owned business with three generations of the Kelly family working there, they now hatch two million poults per annum and process 90,000 turkeys.

In 2014 the Kellys also bought a farm in Virginia, with ground and woodland for rearing KellyBronze turkeys for the US market.

The turkeys

We were taken round the hatchery where Paul explained the incubation and further processes that took place there.

Kelly Turkeys are premium products; all the turkeys are free range and have ‘luxury living’ through every season. They live in a woodland habitat on the farms and are matured to more than twice the age of a standard indoor-reared turkey.

Next we visited the processing plant where they process 90,000 turkeys each year. Toby Kelly (Paul’s son) explained the different stages within the factory. The dry process uses wax, the turkeys are hand plucked and hung in fridges at controlled temperatures to mature before evisceration.

This is in contrast to the wet process which uses water and machines to pluck the birds, which are immediately eviscerated on the line and bagged. The tour around the factory showed us the importance of seasonal workers to the business.

Training and recruitment

Paul highlighted the impact Brexit has had on the business and the struggles to staff the hatchery and processing plant with skilled labour. They highlighted how they were looking into further processes and diversification methods in order to retain staff during the off-peak season.

He also went on to explain how the business was investing in facilities provided to the staff to help with recruitment and retention for the future of the business.

On behalf of the NFU and rest of the programme participants, I would like to thank Derek, Paul and Toby for the opportunity to visit and learn about their business. It was a fantastic day and an excellent way to finish the programme.

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