Rule of Six may prompt farmers to put turkeys on crash diets before Christmas

Turkey farmers may be forced to put their livestock on crash diets in order to avoid food waste come Christmas as coronavirus health and safety measures may limit the number of table guests at festive celebrations.

Last month, the UK government introduced a ‘Rule of Six’ to help fight the worrying increase in positive Covid-19 virus test results – meaning social gatherings were limited to a maximum of six people.

With no slow down in Covid cases in sight, it is feared such measures may still need to be in place for the remainder of the year as the battle against the deadly disease continued.

And while Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suggested the rules may potentially be relaxed slightly on Christmas Day to allow grandparents to attend family dinners, it is likely celebrations may still be legally forced to be more restrained than normal.

An unusual side effect of such action is that turkey farmers are now considering reducing the size of the birds they are rearing by putting them on diets – so the meat available for sale come Christmas will be more suitable for smaller parties.

According to The Sun, it is believed nine million birds hatched in spring and have been fed generously over the summer months.

Not drastic measures are required to slim them down – as breeding a new wave of smaller turkeys is unrealistic for the 2020 Christmas season.

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Farmer Nick Davis, who runs Usk Vale Poultry in south Wales, had already reduced his flock for 2020 by hatching 20 percent less animals this year.

Now he fears a slump of turkey sales will be seen in December.

He told the Sunday Times: "We have to decide what size people want and you can't even tell me today what size that might be.

"We can play around with rations a bit, and we can slaughter them a week or 10 days earlier, so we can reduce the size to a certain extent."

Richard Griffiths, chief executive of the British Poultry Council, has suggested a preference for the alternative option – slaughter the animals earlier than usual.

He suggested: ”Ordering early can help producers better plan their Christmas season.

“We could slaughter some birds early, so smaller, but they would have to be frozen."

Turkeys can grow as big as 20KG, however, most Brits are believed to buy a bird weighing between 6KG and 7KG – enough to feed a party of 10, with enough left for a Boxing Day buffet.

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