On announcing that we were going to visit our Christmas turkeys, we were met with mixed reactions from friends and family. ‘Why would you want to do that? Surely that would put you off eating turkey, watching 200 carefree birds unaware of their imminent fate?’. Firstly, this is the very point, we visited a flock of very happy, curious turkeys roaming a hazelnut orchard, grazing, foraging, basically, utterly content. In an age of intensive farming methods, it is encouraging to see a rise in farms focusing on organic, sustainable farming methods, with an emphasis on providing excellent animal welfare (which results in some pretty tasty meat).
Nestled in the picturesque Wicklow countryside, at the Northern end of the Glen of Imaal lies Hell’s Kettle Farm. On a crisp, Autumnal morning, we called into this family run, organic farm to have a chat with Gavin and Linda over a cup of tea and some tasty cakes. Gavin’s family have been farming on this land for generations. Named after the river and bridge which runs alongside the farm, Hell’s kettle focuses on high quality, low impact, sustainable farming. Gavin and Linda (the resident vegetarian) maintain these principles under the guidance of ‘wise older farmer’ Pat Lynch. Specialising in Organic Wicklow beef, free range organic bronze turkeys, fruit and hazelnuts, Hells Kettle focus on traditional farming methods, ensuring their produce and animals grow in the best possible environment. In addition, all slaughtering and butchery takes place on the farm, minimising stress for the animals.
Gavin and Linda’s bronze turkeys are reared for approx 140 days. This is double the lifespan of a non organic, supermarket turkey. Displaying natural behaviour in their orchard environment, they spend their days dust bathing, perching & playing. They are a curious, nosey breed who act as a group (they were very taken with my yellow shoelaces!), wandering into their cosy shed at nightfall. Focusing for so long on keeping these birds happy, healthy and comfortable, it can be difficult come slaughter, particularly for Linda, who makes herself scarce on that fateful day in mid December. As mentioned, slaughtering takes place in the most humane way possible, on Hells Kettle farm. ‘Plucking day’ follows slaughter, which involves family, friends & neighbours lending Gavin and Pat a helping hand. (Linda’s role is preparing an end of day feast for the hungry pluckers). Linda’s granny is an expert in the art of ‘pin feathering’ and looks forward to the day with great enthusiasm. (Pin feathering is removing the smaller, stubborn feathers with a tweezers. It is done more so for aesthetic reasons). Once all some 200 turkeys are plucked, they are hung for a week, gutted and oven ready for a Christmas Day feast.
A Hell’s Kettle turkey is as far removed from an intensively reared bird as it gets. From the care and attention given to every aspect of rearing, slaughtering and butchering, to the respect for traditional farming methods. ‘Everything is done as nature intended. Some call it organic, we just call it common sense’-Gavin.
To order your Hells Kettle organic bronze turkey, contact Linda and Gavin directly.
Alternatively, visit their stand at this years Christmas on the Square.