UK's Kelly Turkey brings its premium turkeys to US
Nov. 23, 2016
by Joel Crews
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Paul Kelly (blue apron) pictured with USDA inspectors at the recently approved KellyBronze processing plant.
DANBURY, England – After investing $2 million on a 120-acre farm and building a processing plant in Virginia in 2014, UK-based Kelly Turkey has been approved by the US Dept. of Agriculture to sell its dry-processed, KellyBronze turkeys in the US. The company successfully test marketed its ‘New York Dressed’ turkeys, which is a process that includes dry plucking the birds and hanging them for up to 14 days before evisceration, for three years after partnering with an unnamed farmer in Appomattox, Virginia, to grow 160 of its bronze turkeys. It then built its own facility in the US and finally got its process and facilities approved by USDA just ahead this year’s Thanksgiving holiday, said Paul Kelly, managing director.
“Getting the US Department of Agriculture to approve our dry process has taken huge amounts of time and effort with meetings in Washington and translating our UK legislation for dry processing so it would meet USDA criteria,” Kelly said. “I have to say the USDA has been brilliant and really supportive on getting our unique process approved.”
He pointed out that dry-processed turkeys weren’t always unique in the US and they have become the standard in the UK during the holiday season. During the three-year test marketing of the turkeys, Kelly worked with a handful of butchers to sell them at retail for more than double the price of what were previously considered pricey, premium birds. Kelly is confident there is a market for a niche product like his, but he’s heard from plenty of critics.
“Over the past 15 years since I’ve been looking at the US market,” said Kelly. “Everyone tells me that turkeys are sold at $1 per lb. and that no way would people pay the premium needed to grow the birds to full maturity and then dry pluck and hang them.”
According to Kelly, in the US, where sales of indulgences like fine wine and champagne spike during the holidays, there is plenty of potential demand to sustain a premium product like KellyBronze turkeys.
“I believe 45 million turkeys are sold at Thanksgiving,” he said. “Our challenge is to get discerning customers among them to try our turkey.
“I am aware the US has been a graveyard for many UK food companies, but we have done the groundwork. I think we’ve made a very calculated decision and am optimistic about developing a very worthwhile niche market.”