Early Birds Catch the Turkeys

I’m on the brink of believing that someone or something has increased the speed at which time passes. Is it just me or are we all failing to get the same value out of a year that we once did?   It seems like I took the children out picking blackberries on the cusp of autumn and when we got home we were deep into November and on the precipice of the Christmas rush.

Once it starts there is no coming back. From here on in, for me anyway, I will be like a downhill skier with little time to stop and take in the scenery until the end of the festive period. Why so early I hear you ask? Well this week, today in fact, we start our annual Christmas turkey and ham sale which has become almost as traditional as the fowl itself. What started out as a way to give my customers the same quality turkey for a discount in order to beat the downturn, has become a much anticipated annual event and heralds the start of the silly season. This year we’re just in time for Thanksgiving which is Thursday November 26th so Happy Thanksgiving to any readers from the USA.


While nobody likes to think of Christmas too early, have no doubt about it there are substantial savings to be made by getting in early. As long as you have access to a freezer you can have a very ‘financially’ happy and peaceful Christmas without anyone noticing that savings have been made.   There is always a fear that saving on cost will compromise the quality but that need not be the case at all.

Everyone is keen to cut costs these days and there are many ways to do it. You can of course look for cheaper alternatives that just don’t taste the same, but in the long run this is bad for our mental health. Wanting one thing for the family feast and providing something of a lower standard will inevitably leave us feeling even poorer and more deprived than ever, increasing our focus on the recession and what we can no longer afford.

I realised this at the beginning of the downturn, almost four years ago now, and I immediately sought ways to achieve the same savings without compromising on quality or losing sales By thinking creatively the producer and I found a way that was a win win for all of us and particularly the customer. We found the solution in the freezer.

turkeys foragingSo here’s how it works. There is no doubt that artisan producers are up against it these days with labour and utility costs and, in order to produce the highest quality food, short shelf life offerings. With the festive season approaching this can be particularly difficult as increased demand inevitably leads to increased labour costs. There is the people/money/time triangle at work. You need at least two of these components for any venture to succeed. If you are short of money, but have enough people and time, you will get the orders out. However for artisan food producers at Christmas there is always an increased demand, creating a rush and therefore a time shortage. When time isn’t available the only route is to employ more people which hikes up the costs (money). It can be a perplexing situation.

I realised that if we made a large early order for turkeys the producer didn’t have to employ extra staff, immediately reducing the cost at which we could purchase. This meant that we could pass on the discount directly to our customers. That’s exactly what we did the first year. We offered the same quality turkey and ham as the previous year at an incredible €41.50 discount! The customer then popped the turkey and ham into the freezer for the short time between the end of November and Christmas, which didn’t affect the quality in any way. The customer was buying early, avoiding the rush and making a substantial saving on the same quality local turkey that they had always enjoyed. It was a win, win situation for everyone and there was no compromise on excellence. By encouraging people to buy early we were also stimulating the market, still keeping it local and retaining a superior product.

Small producers need and deserve to be supported, but as consumers we need to get the best value for our euro in the current climate. However when you are shopping this festive season always keep in mind that the best value doesn’t always equate to the cheapest product. We are very fortunate in Tipperary to enjoy high quality, locally produced exclusive foods and I urge everyone to support them as best you can in the current climate. We all have a social responsibility to our locality and by pulling together we can escape the harsher casualties of this recession. The sale is for everyone. There are savings to be made and you’d be mad to miss out on them. If you have a freezer, then avail of the €41.50 discount (only available in our Clonmel shop or online) and get ahead. If nothing else, knowing that the turkey and ham are sitting in the freezer will make you feel that one of the major Christmas expenses is out of the way. This offer is only available until Black Friday (November 27th) in our Clonmel shop or available online.

We hope you enjoyed reading this post by Pat Whelan of James Whelan Butchers. Pat is a 5th generation butcher, cook book author and the director of  James Whelan Butchers with shops in Clonmel, the Avoca Food Market Monkstown and Avoca Rathcoole. Sign up to our newsletter for more updates from James Whelan Butchers

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