BIGGER turkeys could be goosed as families may be forced to downsize their Christmas celebrations over the 'rule of six' coronavirus regulations.

While some poultry farmers in the UK are looking at putting their turkeys on a diet or slaughtering earlier, one Cumbrian farmer, is adamant it is too late to now grow smaller turkeys. The birds were hatched in the spring and have spent the summer being fattened up for festive customers.

David Knipe of Heartwood Poultry, near Tebay, each year offers customers a choice of bronze or white birds, with weights ranging from 9lb to 25lb. “I wish I had a crystal ball back in June and I could have polished it up and it would have told me what to expect, and I could have acted accordingly. But my poults were ordered back in May and June when we didn’t have the rule of more than six people meeting.”

High Carlingill Farm sits at 800ft at the foot of the Howgill Fells near Tebay, Cumbria, and has been producing free-range chicken – as well as turkeys and ducks – for around 11 years.

The birds are all slaughtered and dressed on the farm in modern processing facilities.They are then sold through farmers’ markets or direct to repeat customers.

.“Christmas is not cancelled. It is not all about the festive meal or giving presents,” said Mr Knipe.

The farmer says each year he normally has around 250 birds, with 50/50 bronze and white turkeys, as well as his chickens and ducks. “A 14lb bronze bird would normally feed a family of six with leftovers for a few days. The white birds may see us carving up the bigger ones, if customers want crowns, or some may go for a bigger chicken,” said Mr Knipe.

While turkeys can range up to 20kg, most Brits traditionally go for a 6kg to 7kg bird which can feed around 10 people and still leave plenty for a Boxing Day buffet.

The British Poultry Council is now encouraging the public to "take what’s available, even if it’s a slightly larger bird" to support farmers and make the most of Christmas.

Richard Griffiths, chief executive of the British Poultry Council, has even suggested the birds can take an early trip to the abattoir.

"Ordering early can help producers better plan their Christmas season," he said. "We could slaughter some birds early, so smaller, but they would have to be frozen."