Turkey bosses are hoping to stem plummeting retail sales with an ambitious consumer campaign.

Quality British Turkey is splashing out on four celebrity chefs to rebuild consumer confidence. Weekly sales have halved since avian flu was confirmed at Bernard Matthews' Holton plant on 3 February.

Nielsen figures showed sales have fallen from £3.4m a week before bird flu struck to £1.8m in the week ending 17 February.

The campaign will be launched to the public on 12 March via the British turkey website and will run until August. It will centre on a recipe competition.

To drum up and sustain public interest, QBT has enlisted the support of celebrities who will be subjected to a Big Brother-style vote. Rugby star Matt Dawson, jockey Frankie Dettori and former tennis champion Annabel Croft will be asked to develop their own turkey recipe alongside Phil Vickery and three other celebrity chefs.

"Our target is to increase sales from where they were before bird flu," said Kim Burgess, chair of the marketing committee QBT. "The aim is to come up with a recipe at the end of it that will make it into the English language in the same way as 'spag bol'."

All six recipes will be posted online at weekly intervals. Consumers will be offered the chance to win a weekend break by sending in their recipes.

Once all the celebrity recipes have been published, the public will be invited to vote off their least favourite. The final recipe left standing wins the challenge at the end of August and a book containing all the recipes will go on sale at the start of next year.

Besides raising the profile of turkey after recent negative headlines, organisers hope the participation of chef Michelle Waters will appeal to parents looking for healthy food for their children.

They want the recipes to stimulate consumption in the summer, when turkey loses out to beef and sausages for the barbecue.

Bernard Matthews, p66