British Poultry Council chief executive Peter Bradnock said turkey sales in supermarkets remained healthy, which he saw as “a tribute to the intelligence of the British shopper”.
He added: “Consumers have shown they are able to assess the risk well. They know there is no greater risk now than there has ever been in terms of buying and consuming poultry meat in the UK.
“I think that they saw through the first few days of what was a muddled picture of the threat posed by avian flu, and were very quick to assess that the risk had not changed.”
Poultry meat sales plunged in October, fuelled by panic among consumers over media coverage of the potential threat of avian flu. TNS figures show they fell 6.1% in value in the four weeks to November 6 against the same period in 2004, with volumes falling 4.1%.
Sainsbury chief executive Justin King confirmed that the retailer’s poultry meat sales had fallen and it was ordering in extra beef and pork for the festive period.
However, National Farmers’ Union poultry chairman Charles Bourns said demand for turkeys this Christmas was as good as, if not better than, usual.
“Speaking to people who produce traditional farm fresh turkey, most have sold out or are getting close to that,” he said.
“We will not really know how sales have fared until a month after Christmas. But the early indications are that everything is fairly good.”