Ed Mayman – Red Tractor Turkey Farmer
A turkey is not just for Christmas.
That surprises a lot of people, according to Ed Mayman, who rears tens of thousands of birds year-round for major supermarkets.
“The first question I always get is ‘do you just grow them for Christmas?’. People just don’t think about how we need to supply turkeys all year round,” he said.
“Turkey meat is very nutritious and can be cooked in lots of different ways. Obviously Christmas is a very busy time for some turkey farmers but we are farming 365 days of the year.”
Ed has two farms in south Derbyshire. They are known as stag grow-out farms, which means that all of the turkeys are boys. Their feathers are white and they arrive on the farm weighing about 2kg. Ed’s job is to grow them to 18kg, and that takes care, attention to detail and some pretty advanced technology.
Straw bedding, heat, food and water are the essentials that the turkeys require from day one. Like most animals, they are not great at retaining their own body heat when they are small, so Ed’s sheds start warm and then, gradually, the temperature is brought down as the birds fill out and start to heat the shed with their own body heat.
Feed and water is computer controlled and monitored with the help of automatic scales which capture the bird’s growing weight and report it back to the farm’s computer.
“We have some of the latest technology which helps us manage the environment the birds are in,” Ed continued.
“But really the best indicator of whether the birds are doing well is by watching them. I will sit in the shed and look for natural behaviour. Turkeys are incredibly inquisitive and they will come up to you, peck at you to see if you’re a source of food, and then eventually they might climb on you or sleep next to you.”
Despite having all the best technology in the shed, it’s the simplest of additions that captures their imagination.
“We’ve tried putting footballs in the shed and hanging CDs up, but the thing they love the most is a traffic cone with a piece of knotted string tied to it which they can peck continuously!”
Ed’s farm is audited under the Red Tractor Assurance scheme, meaning he is regularly inspected to ensure he is producing turkeys to a good standard.
The scheme rules pay attention to animal welfare, safety, environmental protection and ensure that the end product that consumers buy is fully traceable back to the farm it was produced on.
Ed added: “The Red Tractor logo is vital to our industry. Farmers have a duty of care to the animals that they’re rearing but also to the end consumer.
“They can buy with confidence that that bird has been grown in the UK in an audited environment and have followed strict rules that dictate the birds health and welfare.”
If you want to support farmers like Ed, look for the Red Tractor logo when you next go shopping.