Here at Dale Bank Farm, in the heart of north Staffordshire, we are the oldest turkey farmers in England. My Grandfather, Harry, started the family tradition in 1928 after importing ‘American Bronze’ breeding stock turkeys from the USA.
At this time turkeys were very expensive and exclusive and in his first year of rearing and selling 400 turkeys for Christmas Harry used the profit to build the farmhouse.
I am now the third generation in this small family business rearing 3,000 birds for quality butchers, farm shops and members of the general public.
I still honour the traditional techniques handed down from my Grandfather as all the turkeys are plucked, then hung (the traditional way) and dressed by hand, just the way that my Father and Grandfather did it.
I also still live in the farmhouse that Harry built with his turkey profit back in the 1920s!
“ Thank you to Robert for an excellent turkey crown. As this was my first I sought advice and followed it to the letter. Two hours of foil wrapped and carefully temperature controlled cooking, followed by allowing the bird to rest for a good 30 minutes produced what was probably the most moist and tender Christmas meal that I have enjoyed ”
— Barry Pearson – Ashbourne News Telegraph
It is very important to me to provide the highest standard and quality of meat so all my customers have the best tasting and most succulent turkey on Christmas Day.
The birds come to the farm as day old chicks (“poults”) and are given the best attention to make sure they grow and thrive in the finest environment possible.
We rear both White (white feathers) & Bronze (black feathers) turkeys.
Interesting, but useless fact: In this country we used to eat a goose on Christmas Day, but King Edward VII decided to break tradition and have a turkey on Christmas Day instead. Of course the gentry followed suit, as did the middle class and in the 1920s the turkey had really gained popularity and the trend had started.
Back then it was the Bronze turkeys that were eaten and then in the 1960s people’s tastes changed to White turkeys.
TV chefs have swung the fashion back to Bronze turkeys, but in my opinion there is very little difference in the actual taste of the meat, it’s just down to personal preference. Certainly our pluckers prefer the white birds as the Bronze turkey black feathers are tougher to extract!
“ Felt I must let you know how pleased I was with my small turkey. Small sometimes means dry and tasteless but it was excellent full of taste and really moist.
I know where my next turkey is coming from! ”
— A. Mandeville – Ashbourne
My turkeys have the freedom to roam and sun themselves in the field in the daytime. They are brought into a 250ft shed to sleep on home grown straw at night, to protect them from foxes and other predators.
To keep them stimulated they listen to Classic FM and are given footballs and have CDs hanging as they like to peck at the reflections. They are fed the highest quality corn to ensure maximum flavour. When Christmas arrives the birds are fat and mature and prepared for the table with every care and attention to detail.
And our free range turkeys love it too when it stops raining!
I rear turkeys from 4kg through to 24kg. The most popular weight range is from 4kg to 10kg and all of these birds are hens because of the conformation (this is the shape of the bird). The bigger birds are all males because of the size and weight they have to grow to.
I select the breeds on a variety of factors which, in my experience, enhances the quality and ultimately the eating experience of the turkey. The end product is what is important to keep our standards as high as we can.
“ I had one of your turkeys (6.5kg) for Xmas from Croots farm shop in Duffield and want to tell you that it was the best turkey I have ever cooked. My American granddaughter announced that it was the most tasty and moist bird she had ever eaten – this from a girl who had not long eaten a turkey reared by the Amish farmers during thanksgiving. So thank you for the quality of your produce and I look forward to eating another one in 2020. ”
— Di Hancock