UK-based Kelly Turkeys has been given the official go-ahead by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to market its products throughout the US.
The company, which has been testing the US Thanksgiving market over the last six years, has already built a pilot processing plant in Virginia to see whether or not it can develop niche sales for “top quality traditional turkey in a market dominated by a cheap frozen product”.
While concluding that its US venture definitely has a future, however, the company still needed to secure USDA clearance for its dry plucked and hung process. That clearance has now come through.
“Getting the USDA to approve our dry process has taken huge amounts of time and effort with meetings in Washington and translating our UK legislation for dry processing so it would meet USDA criteria,” said Kelly Turkeys’ managing director, Paul Kelly. “The USDA has been brilliant, however, and really supportive of getting our unique process approved.”
With this latest US hurdle now cleared, Mr Kelly is determined to keep moving forward. That’s despite being repeatedly told that turkeys sell for 1$/lb in the US and that there’s no way people will pay the premium needed to grow his birds to full maturity and then dry pluck and hang them.
“I find it strange that in a country where the sales of fine wines and champagne go through the roof at Thanksgiving, it’s inconceivable there are not enough discerning customers who can afford to have the very best for us not to take a small part of the market,” he said. “Some 45 million turkeys are sold at Thanksgiving and our challenge is to find discerning customers to try our traditional, high quality, turkeys.
“I know the US has been a graveyard for many UK food companies, but we have done the groundwork. We’ve made a very calculated decision and am optimistic about developing a very worthwhile niche market in the US.”
Headline image shows Mr Kelly (blue apron) with USDA officials at the processing plant in Virginia