Suppliers and retailers say it is shaping up to be a bumper year for premium turkey.

"The specialist turkey producers are reporting that orders are rising year-onyear," said Richard Griffiths at the British Poultry Council. Top-end producer and marketer Kelly Turkeys said it had sold out of birds by mid-November - the earliest ever.

"We were surprised after last year's avian flu news," said MD Paul Kelly. "But everyone's come back to the market and we've sold 42,000 birds."

The number of Freedom Food birds has almost doubled in two years, up to 232,000 turkeys in 2006.