Watch your Christmas dinner fatten up on 'Turkey Cam'
Ed FossThe days of the traditional visit to the village farm to pick out a tasty prize turkey a few weeks before Christmas dinner and then watch it fatten up through the autumn have become a distant rural memory for the vast majority.Ed Foss
The days of the traditional visit to the village farm to pick out a tasty prize turkey a few weeks before Christmas dinner and then watch it fatten up through the autumn have become a distant rural memory for the vast majority.
But there is a 21st century online alternative thanks to a new Norfolk company.
Farm, Park and Wild, which markets itself as dedicated to delivering fine food and ingredients from north Norfolk's best farmers, fishermen and smallholders, has launched the Turkey Cam.
Enthusiastic diners can keep a beady eye on their purchase of Norfolk Black or Norfolk Bronze turkeys over the internet as the birds spend their days strutting their way around the field near Aylsham which they call home.
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It's not just a gimmick insist the bosses at Farm, Park and Wild. Instead it has been designed to show people the all important outdoor conditions the birds are kept in as they are prepared for the table.
'It's all about caring about where your food comes from,' said Kent Laws, who is based in Northrepps and is one of a team of three behind the new venture.
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'It would be all very well holding a turkey for a photo call to promote the business and then putting it back in a closed barn once the cameras have gone.
'But we want to show that the turkeys have a consistent high quality of life - and the turkey cam provides the absolute proof that this is the case.'
It has not been completely smooth from the start. On launch day there was a spider on the camera lens getting in the way of the view.
Once this was spotted Mr Laws made a phone call to ask an associate to drive to the field and remove the spider.
'We are giving people the option to choose healthy turkeys with an unsurpassed quality of life - the key is we are being transparent about it.
'If something matters to you then you research it before you buy it. If good food, animal welfare and great taste are on your agenda then the Turkey Cam gives you the ability to feel confident in your purchase for Christmas Day.'
There are 450 turkeys in the field covered by the camera and they are a mix of Norfolk Bronze and the rarer Norfolk Black.
The turkeys are fed a mixture of grain, wheat and barley stubble and are free to roam throughout the day in their environment which combines grass and woodland.
At night the birds are housed in a large barn to protect them from both the elements and predators.
Their diet is free from additives and the birds are antibiotic free.
The Norfolk Black is a slow growing bird with less breast meat so has been generally unpopular for the supermarket shelf market.
However its fine grained and well flavoured meat has meant its popularity has grown in recent years as people choose flavour and quality over mass market blandness, said Mr Laws.
The more well known Norfolk Bronze is the most popular Christmas choice due its larger breast meat proportion and less gamey flavour.
Farm, Park and Wild was launched this month by Mr Laws, fellow Norfolk man James Ellis who is involved with the Gunton Estate deer herd and London based Jules Ugo.
The idea of the business, said Mr Laws, was to expand the London and south east markets for local food producers who 'care passionately about animal welfare'.
'The way we operate is with the belief that quality of produce and quality of life are inextricably linked.'
The business offers sauces and vegetables to accompany the turkey. It also sources lobster and crab from John Lee in Cromer; pork from John Kenny near Aylsham; lamb from Ben Tubby at Ludham; chicken from Sophie Hunn at Dereham; venison from Mr Ellis; and vegetables from various growers and smallholders around north Norfolk.
And as well as delivering the basic products, the business - which describes itself as a 'micro food hub' - can also supply all the ingredients for dinner parties along with freshly made sauces and accompaniments.
t To reserve and order a Christmas turkey visit www.farmparkwild.co.uk. The same website hosts the web camera.