A turkey’s last Christmas

Mickey Mullan of Mullan's Organic Farm, Limavady, with some of their organic birds.
Mickey Mullan of Mullan's Organic Farm, Limavady, with some of their organic birds.

On Christmas day families around the north will feast on a golden delicious turkey, gobbling it down with all the other traditional Christmas fayre.

However, many people have no idea, or at least very little knowledge, about the process that takes the festive bird from the farmyard to the dinner plate, which is where Mickey Mullan of Mullan’s Organic farm outside Limavady was of great help.

Mickey says they start preparing their Christmas turkeys from when the birds are a day-old, usually around June. “What appears on the table is the result of a lot of work,” says Mickey, shepherding the birds from their cosy shed to outside. Making the most of their final minutes of freedom, the noisy birds flap and fly, clearly enjoying the outside air.

“Progressively you feed them and take them outside and they get to know nature and grass and that’s when things get easier because they get tougher and they thrive, unbelievably so, because they really do react to the countryside,” says Mickey, making sure the birds head in the same direction.

“It’s remarkable how much they recognise nature, even though they haven’t seen things before. After that it’s a process of keeping them safe from predators, feeding them the right diet and they will grow to the situation you want,” says Mickey. “Then there is that violent period we are dealing with now and we take them in and they become Christmas dinner.”

As the turkeys walk the equivalent of their ‘Green Mile’ into another shed, Mickey picks the first bird for slaughter. Within seconds of wringing the bird’s neck, it is hanging upside down ready to be plucked.

Gone are the days of hand plucking, however. The farm uses a machine that dry plucks, which does away with the tedious aspect of the job and makes it more efficient. Within minutes the bird is rid of its coat and ready for a period in cold storage before the customer collects it.

“I like to think they have a full life as much as we can provide and the proof of the product is they are a fantastic Christmas dinner, and that reflects the lifestyle they have. We have set a certain standard and it works,” says Mickey. “They’ve had the oportunity to be active and learn how to be a natural creature in natural surroundings. They are fit and eat as much from the ground and the natural feed. They are a fantastic bird, taste is different and they are healthy happy animals.”

As for me, pass the cranberry sauce.

n Contact Mullan’s Organic Farm on 028 777 64940.