Turkey sales plummet 7.7% to £51m

Shoppers turn to fresh beef and pork for their Christmas lunches with sales up £12m

Secondary meat products such as sausages and cut meats perform strongly

Sausages far outstrip festive turkey

Christmas turkey sales have got the industry in a flap, as Britons ate nearly 8% less than last year. Shoppers bought £51m worth of turkeys in the 12 weeks to the end of December - £4m less than in 2005. They have turned instead to turkeys from local butchers and farmers, and to other meats, for Christmas lunch. Organic and free-range turkey growers in the UK and Ireland said they'd had their best-ever year, with some selling out as early as October. Market leader Bernard Matthews said fresh sales were up 14% on the year, but gave no data for frozen whole birds.

The fall in turkey sales was more than made up by the rise in beef and pork sales, which posted increases of £7m and £5m respectively. It confounded some predictions that processors had overstocked on Christmas beef

Gammon also had a much better festive period than in previous years, suggesting that shoppers may be starting to respond to processor campaigns to boost the product. Sales rose more than 7% to £88.1m.

However, fresh sausages were the biggest single winners during the period. Sales rocketed more than 12% to £143m - getting on for three times higher than turkeys. And ready-to-eat products such as cooked meat also put in a strong performance with sales up to £581m.

Sam Fortescue