Poultry giant Bernard Matthews has named Andrew Ballantyne as its new agricultural director.

Ballantyne joins the Norfolk-based company from his role as general manager of UK agriculture for Moy Park, Northern Ireland's largest food processing company and one of Europe's leading poultry companies. He ­replaces previous incumbent Martin Newman.

"This is a major coup for the business," said Bernard Matthews UK managing ­director Jeff Halliwell.

"It is excellent news that Andrew has chosen to join the company. He not only brings extensive experience of managing large farming operations, but also a wealth of experience in poultry," he said.

Ballantyne's appointment came at an exciting time for Bernard Matthews following the recent addition of its Lincolnshire-based free-range business and what was already a large Christmas order book, said Halliwell.

Ballantyne started working in the poultry industry 27 years ago, working his way up from a hatchery supervisor at Padley's, where he went on to hold a number of positions, before joining Moy Park in 2001. His industry qualifications include an HND in microbiology and a higher technical diploma in food science and technology.

"I am delighted to be joining at a very exciting time for the business," said Ballantyne. "Bernard Matthews has been a thriving farming business for 60 years, and has been at the forefront of innovation in poultry. I look forward to working with the team and adding to their expertise."