The Kelly family has been producing Christmas turkeys since 1971, when Paul’s father Derek, already a well-respected figure in the turkey industry, decided to start his own family business: Kelly Turkeys.
Based in Essex, Derek’s initial goal was to produce and rear genuinely high-quality white turkeys for Christmas dinner, bred specifically with their flavour and eating qualities in mind. Mollie Kelly, Derek’s wife and Paul’s mum, played a vital role in building up the business during the 1970s, by changing perceptions of how to cook turkey, demonstrating her revolutionary cooking methods to the press and at home.
The Kellys were winning awards at shows across the country for their white turkeys, but competition was stiff with the rise of supermarkets and decline in traditional butchers. After studying Poultry Science at University in the 1980s, Paul came up with the idea of branching out into breeding the original bronze turkey that originated in Mexico, to differentiate Kelly Turkeys from the crowd. The following year, Derek travelled the country buying up the last remaining flocks of pure bronze turkeys.
Named for its unusual colour, the feathers of bronze turkeys are a shimmering green-bronze, often appearing metallic in sunlight. They are slower grown than white turkeys, and have a distinctive gamey flavour and moist meat with a firm texture.
The big break for Kelly Turkeys came in 1989 with the arrival of their first famous friend: Delia Smith. Delia visited the farm and the KellyBronze turkey became the bird of choice in her new book, ‘Delia’s Christmas.’ Suddenly butchers were being asked by their customers for KellyBronze turkeys and were phoning in their droves — the Kellys had successfully re-established the market for bronze turkeys.
In 1991 the Kellys went free-range, a revolutionary move at the time. They were making headlines and growing in popularity, so much so that they were able to expand and purchase a redundant dairy farm which became the heart of their Christmas operation.
Because of the Kelly’s continuing dedication and passion for the British Turkey industry, they have become a multi award-winning family, including being the only father-son duo to win the Rupert Chalmers award. Rupert Chalmers was a founder of the British Turkey Federation in 1951 and a pioneer of the industry. After his death in 1977 the Rupert Chalmers Award for ‘outstanding contribution and commitment to the turkey industry over a significant period’ was created. Both Derek and Paul have both won the award, in 1995 and 2007 respectively. If that wasn’t enough, Derek was awarded an MBE in 1998 for services to the farm fresh poultry industry.
Paul is the Guinness World record holder for both plucking (achieved in 2008) and carving a turkey (achieved in 2009), and has been awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Essex for his services to the agricultural industry. In 2011, the KellyBronze was the first ever turkey to receive 3 gold stars in the Great Taste Awards. Not only have they put in the hard work to earn all of these amazing awards, they’ve broken records and established a few firsts along the way!
Kelly Bronze turkeys are produced and reared with care from egg to oven — they’re one of the only turkey farmers who are a part of the process from start to finish. Grown slowly from eggs laid in spring, the birds are free-range with plenty of opportunity to exercise and a natural diet of corn, soya and foraging. They’re allowed to mature much longer than a standard bird, which is key to the flavour. Dry plucked by hand the traditional way before being hung and dry-aged which also adds to the flavour.
Paul says – “I was delighted when Booths approached us to produce a bird especially for them. They have a great reputation for quality and for treating customers and staff well. The free-range bronze bird we rear for them comes from the traditional slow growing strains of birds. We grow them to maturity, feed them well, dry pluck them and then hang them for improved flavour and texture. The pop-up timer they supplied with the bird helps to take the guess work out of cooking it, because the key, with these quality birds, is to keep it quick and simple.”