TRADITIONAL NORFOLK POULTRY (TNP) has begun a £5m expansion to its processing capacity for both chicken and Christmas turkeys.

According to managing director Mark Gorton, the firm wants to grow in line with shoppers seeking out more premium meat products – a by-product of the coronavirus pandemic.

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“We are seeing many families unable to dine out during the Covid-19 restrictions spending more time cooking at home and choosing higher-quality meat products,” said Mr Gorton.

“During the pandemic, there have been periods when we could have sold double our production capacity.

“The demand for free-range has actually been steadily growing for a number of years, and we are confident this trend will continue even when consumers are able to eat out again and a more normal market returns.”

Christmas market

Groundworks for the first phase of the expansion are already underway at the Breckland plant to increase processing and packing productivity and enlarge the chilling capacity, which will come on stream during the autumn.

This will enable TNP to produce up to 500,000 turkeys for the Christmas market.

The second stage of the investment, part-funded by a grant from the Rural Development Programme for England, will expand production, packing and distribution areas to double the firm’s output up to 300,000 chickens a week.

Recruiting farmers

Along with the factory expansion is the drive to recruit more farmers to produce free-range chickens and turkeys.

“We offer a wide range of options for farmers wishing to make their land available, rearing chickens on contract to four weeks old ready for moving out to mobile free-range farms or investing in their own facilities on our new and exciting Full Cycle Growing Contracts,” added Mr Gorton.

“We’re also receiving a lot of interest from free-range egg producers looking to diversify into table poultry production due to diminishing returns in the egg sector.

“With the full implications of Brexit now becoming all too apparent to farmers, many will be looking for new ways to supplement their income and free-range poultry offers a secure, long-term future that we believe will be increasingly attractive in the years ahead.”