Bernard Matthews, the UK's largest turkey producer, has recently re-vamped the look of its turkey-based ranges after receiving bad publicity following a bird 'flu' outbreak and cruelty investigations earlier this year.
The new packaging and advertisement campaign depicting green grass and a 'big green tick' could imply the turkey has lived a healthy, outdoor life.
However, according to Bernard Matthews, only 2 per cent of its seven million turkeys are reared on free-range farms. Therefore, in our opinion, the vast majority of Bernard Matthews' turkeys are likely to be reared in large, windowless, barren sheds and never experience life in a field.
Around 90 per cent of turkeys reared in the UK are reared in such intensive systems, where sheds can contain up to 25,000 birds. The floor of these sheds becomes wet and dirty from the birds' own waste and releases ammonia. European studies indicate that many birds develop painful sores on their feet as a result of dirty litter. Some turkeys also experience eye damage when kept in these dimly lit conditions.
So this Christmas, beware of misleading labelling and look out for turkeys that are labelled as free-range, organic or RSPCA Freedom Food™ standard. Only these labels will ensure your turkey has been raised in higher welfare systems.