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‘Tis the Season…But how did turkey become the festive bird?

Did you know 87% of British people believe that Christmas would not be the same without a traditional roast turkey… but how did it come to be THE festive meal?

turk-old The turkeys journeys to Europe

The Turkey – a beautiful, yet rather prehistoric looking bird! No wonder as it’s believed to have evolved from pheasant-like ancestors from the Pleistocene Era (1.8 million years ago to the end of the Ice Age!).

The first turkey references were found documented in Mexico in the 15th Century and following that, known for the quality of its meat and highly decorative feathering, it was the Aztecs who then domesticated the birds and documented them well.
They long remained a bird native to North America and Asia until 1500’s when they came to Europe, landing in Spain first as the first port for ships returning from discovering the New World!

As treasured gifts from explorers and merchants keen to benefit from an exotic looking bird with delicious meat, the turkey found its way to various other European countries.


They are believed to have been introduced to England by a gentleman called William Strickland – an East Yorkshire farmer’s son who returned from exploring the New World with them.

stickland-coatWhy turkey?

Given the turkeys provenance it is easy to see why it was regarded as such special bird eaten at only the most prestigious of occasions. As such they came to be reared in Europe for only the tables of the rich and privileged. It was Henry VIII who was apparently the first English king to enjoy the big-breasted bird. Prior to the turkey tradition, Christmas fare included roast swan, pheasants and peacocks. A special treat was a roast boars head decorated with holly and fruit!

By the late 17th century turkey was being eaten more widely than just by the elite, but no less was held in high esteem and remained a Christmas tradition: King George II reared three thousand in Richmond Park for the Royal dining and Charles Dickens’ wrote in A Christmas Carol of Bob Cratchit having goose before Scrooge bought him a turkey.

mealThe Classic Family Festive Feast
Nowadays, thanks partly to the invention of the fridge, but also due to Christmas being a family day and turkeys being family size, the Roast Turkey has a place on nearly every Yuletide table – a delicious succulent meat and impressive centerpiece.

Without it Christmas wouldn’t the be the same, so now you know why it is such a magnificent bird make sure you order yours. Take away the stress with it delivered to your door from Herb Fed.

Alternatively, some feeling over faced by a turkey, choose a Christmas Rooster – Special Herb Fed Roosters are produced once a year for Christmas day only. They offer a classic alternative to a turkey and are slightly smaller (3kg to 5kg +).

Did you know…

  • We eat around 10 million turkeys every year for Christmas time.
  • A survey shows that the top three most popular ways to serve leftover Christmas turkey are: sandwiches, soups/stews or salads.
  • British women do not attempt their first Christmas lunch until the age of 34.
  • 20% of British people admit to paying more for their turkeys for ‘extra quality’. QUITE RIGHT!
  • 25% of British people buy their turkeys months in advancejoin the club & order yours now!