When one thinks of Christmas lunch, a heaving table set with beautiful dishes and glassware springs to mind. Bowls of steaming veg, golden roasties, bowls of cranberry and bread sauce, and platters of pigs-in-blankets orbit the meal’s centrepiece, a golden brown turkey.
It’s a meal that’s been prepped, timed and strategised in kitchens up and down the country in Christmases past, but the festive meal may look a little different this year.
The price of turkey has shot up due to the UK’s biggest ever outbreak of bird flu, with 2.3m birds culled in October 2022 alone. While farmers are desperately looking to protect their livelihoods and their turkeys in any way that they can, if the birds become infected, they must be destroyed.
This means that the turkeys that are available will be in short supply with a higher price point to cover costs - especially free-range birds. Plus, with energy prices as they are, the cost of cooking a whole bird will be unspeakably high. Not exactly ideal against the background of a cost-of-living crisis.
But all is not lost! You can enjoy Christmas lunch with all the trimmings, with or without the turkey.
Where does this mania with turkey for Christmas come from? You can thank Henry VIII for that. The Tudor king made the bird the star of his Christmas feast following the discovery of the Americas, its native homeland.
However, other countries do December 25 a little differently. It’s suckling pig on the Argentine menu, while in Australia - where it’s the height of summer - they tuck into Yuletide feasts of seafood, namely juicy prawns. Back in the Northern Hemisphere, western European and Scandi nations tend to favour pork and beef, as well as luxe game like duck, goose and rabbit.
So, plenty of alternatives to turkey - and who knows, you may even start a new family tradition.
See the best offers on turkey and other winning alternatives below
Best Whole Turkey Bird Deals
Hosting the big day this year? If you’ve never cooked a bird of such dimensions before, it can be quite an undertaking. A whole turkey takes all morning to cook, so prepping the night before and starting early on the 25th is crucial if you plan to have everyone seated at a decent hour.
It doesn’t have to be a slog; for those with fewer mouths to feed, a turkey joint or crown gives the same impressive effect with a much shorter cooking time, and a pre-prepared version gets things going even quicker still.
F&M Free Range Bronze Turkey, Large, 7-8.5kg - £150, Fortnum & Mason
Waitrose Medium Duchy Organic Bronze Feathered Whole Turkey with Giblets - from £45, Waitrose
Waitrose Large Duchy Organic Bronze Feathered Whole Turkey with Giblets - from £75, Waitrose
Morrisons British Medium Whole Turkey 4-5.4.9kg - £23.50, Morrisons
Farmisons & Co rare breed slate grey whole turkey - £125, Farmisons
Best Christmas Turkey Crown Deals
Less time-consuming than cooking a whole bird, crowns are the main portion of the turkey sans wings and legs. It’s the most economical option for small families or anyone attempting the meal with only a mini oven to assist. They’re easier to carve and there’s less waste.
But it does also mean less leftovers, so if you’re hoping to make Boxing Day sandwiches or turkey curry afterwards, you may want a whole bird.
Donald Russell Large British Turkey Crown Christmas Box - £170, Donald Russell
Tesco Finest Breeze Free Range Turkey Crown - £23, Tesco
Tesco British Frozen Mini Turkey Crown 1Kg-1.4Kg - £12, Tesco
Fortnum's Free Range Bronze Turkey Crown, Large, 4-5kg - £140, Fortnum & Mason
Morrisons The Best Free Range Stuffed Bronze Turkey Crown 1.8-2.5kg - £32.98, Morrisons
Donald Russell British Free-range Bronze Turkey Crown - £85, Donald Russell
Sainsbury's Briitsh Ultimate Christmas Turkey Crown 2.1 - 2.6kg - from £49.35, Sainsbury's
Best Turkey Joint Deals
Catering for three to five diners, a joint is the choice cut for an intimate Christmas dinner. Some come pre-stuffed, while others are wrapped in slices of pancetta so they emerge from the oven with a delightful crispy top.
Check the meat is cooked thoroughly by piercing the plumpest part with a knife: if the juices run clear, ready the crackers because Christmas lunch is about to be served.
Pipers Farm Free Range Turkey Breast Stuffed with Sage & Onion - £23, Piper's Farm
Farmisons & Co turkey leg ballotine - mulled spice & clementine - £18.95, Farmisons
Donald Russell British Turkey Parcels with Sage & Onion Stuffing - £12, Donald Russell
Best turkey alternatives: beef, fish, smoked ham and more
Want to skip turkey altogether this year? There are plenty of extra special alternatives to your festive feast, from rack of Welsh lamb and XX to a Salmon & Champagne Wellington. Add the trimmings and you may find you won’t even miss the traditional bird.
Donald Russell Stuffed Whole Pheasant - £18, Donald Russell
M&S Collection Luxury Shellfish Platter - £50, M&S
M&S Collection 4 Dressed Lobster Halves - £65, M&S
DukesHill Whole Boneless Wiltshire Ham - £90, DukesHill
DukesHill Free Range Goose - £84, DukesHill
DukesHill Stuffed Duck - £69, DukesHill
Sainsbury's Salmon & Champagne Wellington - £20, Sainsbury's
Taste the Difference British outdoor bred pork porchetta - £18, Sainsbury's