PUBLISHED: 15:43 10 November 2014 | UPDATED: 15:43 10 November 2014
Kelly Turkeys represents three generations of the Kelly family. In 1971 Paul's father, Derek Kelly, having worked in the turkey farming industry for some years, originally began the business selling higher quality white turkeys
Derek Kelly believed in slower and longer maturation, careful selection of feed, traditional dry-plucking and hanging the carcasses to develop flavour and he was convinced that people would pay a premium for a better product.
Paul explains: ‘I was eight years old when he began, so I’ve grown up with them.’
Derek purchased most of the remaining flocks of bronze turkeys in the UK, which amounted to less than 300 birds. These he crossbred together for five years, to broaden the genetic base, after which he began to group them into breeding families for different end weights and other characteristics.
By 1984 the business was selling 180 Kelly Bronze turkeys and today that figure has risen to 32,000.
For Paul, it is clear what makes Kelly Turkeys so special. ‘It’s not just that we have our own breed, it’s that we grow them to full maturity and then it’s all about the way we pluck and handle them. However, the biggest factor is how long you grow it for and how long you hang it for. Yes, they are organic and free range, but it’s the other factors which create the immense flavour. Our cooking times are also radically different to a standard turkey. Your standard turkey is about 10-12 weeks old, but ours are 6 months old and that gives the bird time to lay down fat, especially in the last 5-6 weeks, which conducts the heat. As a result, our birds take only two hours to cook.’
Paul is keen to go out and educate people on exactly how to cook a Kelly Bronze and each of the turkeys are even sold with a thermometer to ensure you get the best possible results.
The birds were the very first to win three gold stars in the Great Taste Awards with Kelly’s winning Poultry Producer of the Year too, among many other awards.
‘We don’t cut any corners with our birds,’ adds Paul. ‘If there’s something we can do in our production methods to make the taste even better, we will do it, even if it makes it more expensive. We only produce for Christmas; we are not in the all year round market. We produce something very, very special indeed and once you’ve tried a Kelly Bronze turkey, you won’t go back.’
When I caught up with Paul he had just left the Guild of Fine Food annual conference, where he’d been invited to attend to demonstrate cooking the Kelly Bronze to the country’s top chefs. In fact, Paul has gained plenty of foodie friends over the years, all of whom share the love of the Kelly Bronze, including Jamie Oliver and Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson.
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