Upper crust British magazine Tatler has included Kelly Bronze turkeys on its list of Christmas status symbols. This coveted breed of bird has been celebrated by top chefs including Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver and Michael Roux JR, so what makes them so tasty?
Kelly Bronze turkeys spend 70 per cent of their time out of doors. It’s a beautiful bright day when Chopstix visited the Essex farm (Kelly Bronze’s are now also bred in the US, in on a farm in Virginia) and the turkeys are scampering through the trees. They have acres of woodland to run around and masses of nettles to snack on. “They love nettles, they eat them like crazy,” says renowned turkey breeder Paul Kelly, second generation owner of Kelly Bronze turkeys.
Until they are 12 weeks old the birds are kept indoors. As we walk towards the large barn an excited chirruping emanates. “You can tell how everything is from the noise,” says Paul, opening the barn doors to reveal hundreds of chicks bobbing about among bales of straw. “No noise is a bad sign. Squawking is a bad sign. You want to hear a nice chirp.”
Another good sign is how the turkeys may vary in weight year to year. “The more naturally you grow the bird, the more it can be affected by the elements,” says Paul. “In a mild autumn the turkeys are lighter, if it’s cold they eat more.”
It’s hard to imagine that in the 1980s the Kelly family farm run by Paul’s parents faced a tricky future despite breeding award winning turkeys. But then in 1990 Delia Smith visited and was so impressed with the turkey she bought there that she referred to it by name in her Christmas book. The business has never looked back.