The two leading premium suppliers, Kelly Turkeys and Holly Berry Hatcheries, told The Grocer that supermarkets had misjudged the impact of the recession on consumer spending and that up to 30% fewer premium turkey chicks were hatched this summer in preparation for the Christmas market.
"Early in the year the major retailers dramatically cut their orders for premium fresh turkeys. They are now wondering if they made the right decision," said Paul Kelly, managing director of Kelly Turkeys.
Roger Finney, chairman of Holly Berry Hatcheries, said orders for his slow-growing turkeys were down by between 15% and 20% on last year. "We've ended up throwing quite a lot of eggs away because of a shortage of orders.
"There was a lot of nervousness about the recession and there are people now scrabbling about for birds. There was a worry about being overproduced for the supermarkets for Christmas."
Premium turkeys are typically slow-growing breeds that take up to 28 weeks to reach slaughter weight. They account for up to 15% of the market, said Finney, who predicted consumers would either trade down to a cheaper bird or opt for another meat such as beef or chicken.
Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda and Marks & Spencer all said they were confident there was enough supply to meet demand.