As producers feel the strain of another year of rising grain costs, consumers could find it more expensive to gobble turkey this Christmas. Juliz Glotz reports

The dearest food on the traditional Christmas menu – the turkey – could become even more expensive this year, as high feed costs are putting increasing pressure on suppliers.

Soaring grain prices have once again squeezed the necks of many poultry producers this year, and the turkey sector is no exception. Of the fresh turkey products listed in the major mults, more than half have gone up in price over the past 12 months, and many lines are showing double-digit year-on-year price increases. For example, a Bernard Matthews XXL Golden Norfolk turkey has become £5 – or 16.7% – more expensive in Tesco over the past year, while a Bernard Matthews turkey breast joint is up 12.5%, from £3.99 to £4.49, in Morrisons [The Grocer/].

Retail prices have also gone up on many own-label products. A 450g pack of Sainsbury’s own-label diced turkey breast is now 14.3% more expensive than it was this time last year, while Tesco’s own-label free-range turkey breast steaks have risen 33.3%, from £3 to £4. Asda’s own-label turkey thigh joint has increased from £3 to £3.65 – an increase of 21.7% year-on-year.

In addition, there has been plenty of chopping and changing around listings over the past year as retailers have sought to manage price rises and optimise the product line-up of their turkey fixtures. Waitrose has delisted eight turkey products and listed 11 new, typically cheaper ones over the past 12 months – while at Asda there were nine delistings and four new listings [].

A spokesman for Bernard Matthews Farms, the country’s largest turkey producer, said as feed costs had spiralled upwards the company had “regrettably” been forced to pass on some of its higher input costs to its customers. “The increases have been caused by a number of global factors, all of which have been completely beyond the control of any primary producer or processor,” the spokesman added.

As supermarket buyers had not yet decided on retail prices for this Christmas, it was too early for Bernard Matthews to comment on the likely cost of a Christmas turkey, he said. However, as Christmas is a key battleground for supermarkets and all are currently involved in price comparison schemes, suppliers face a tough round of price negotiations with the retailers over the coming weeks.

It may be too soon for Bernard Matthews to say, but another producer gave a sobering perspective on the upcoming festivities.

“No one wants to see higher turkey prices for Christmas, but there’s a reality to what producers are facing in terms of their production costs at the moment and have been facing over the past year,” he said.

“Not all input cost increases will be passed on to consumers, but some will inevitably have to be.”