Free-range bronze turkeys and geese roam freely through the fields and are fed with natural cereals from the farm with no growth promoters or antibiotics. White turkeys are happily housed in straw-bedded barns with space to walk around and all poultry are reared to full maturity and hung for up to 14 days to give a fuller flavour.
The third generation family were originally dairy farmers with mixed-used farming and capons. Today Glebelands Farm on the outskirts of Exeter, has sheep and beef cattle and grow wheat, barley and oil-seed rape on the 200 acre farm; the mainstay of the business, however, is rearing high-quality poultry for the festive period.
Mike’s parents married in 1939 were originally dairy farmers when Vida Leach, Mike’s mother and Tim’s Grandmother decided to rear 50 turkey chicks to raise a bit of extra cash for Christmas. Now in its 75th year, the entrepreneurial farming duo have grown the thriving ‘TastyBird’ business to over 4,000 turkeys and 600 geese and ducks.
Over the last 50 years, the family business has been supplying local reputable West Country butchers, farm shops and the catering trade as well as the ever popular farm-gate sales. Tim joined his father in the business 10 years ago and since that time the farm has increased its sales to high-quality butchers across the region from Penzance to Bristol, and via orders through the website with deliveries across England and Wales. Moving with the times and listening to the needs of their busy customers, they now also supply half-size small turkeys, turkey crowns and prime turkey breast meat for easy carving with optional chestnut, cranberry and orange stuffing.
Mike Leach of ‘TastyBird’ said: “Tim joined me at the farm a decade ago and the turkey business has really taken off increasing from 500 to over 5,000. The poultry are all traditionally raised and fed cereals from the farm which is an important factor for the modern-day consumer which has been proven with increased awareness and sales direct from the farm and through the website. Although we have grown the business ten-fold, we are still very much hands-on farmers at the end of the day and welcome farm-gate sales, actively encouraging members of the public to visit the farm. This means they have the assurance of knowing first-hand that they are getting a mature, farm-fresh turkey or goose for Christmas. After all, it is the most important date in the calendar for families to come together for a traditional festive feast and they want to know they are getting the best bird that money can buy with maximum flavour.”
The ‘Tasty Bird’ business is affiliated with The Traditional Farmfresh Turkey Association’ (TFTA) which dictates that traditional free range bronze and barn reared white turkeys, are grown to the highest welfare standards. The association’s ‘golden promise’ states that traditional farm fresh turkeys are naturally reared on grass or in woodland and fed on locally sourced feed. This means the farm produces Christmas turkeys of the highest quality, finish, flavour and texture and presentation by traditional methods without the use of growth promoters and by the highest welfare and environmentally friendly means available.
Once matured at 23 weeks, the turkeys on Glebelands Farm are slaughtered humanely in early December under stringent regulations set by ‘The Traditional Farmfresh Turkey Association’ (TFTA).
Tim Leach of ‘TastyBird’ said: “We are welfare standard accredited with TFTA, and are part of the farm assurance scheme to ensure high standards of animal welfare. The ministry vets us to check that slaughter is done properly and we are regularly monitored. It gives complete peace of mind to our customers. Our traditionally raised poultry bear no comparison to those bought at supermarkets where they can be flavourless and often pumped with water. This means once they are defrosted the weight on the packaging may be inaccurate. At Glebelands Farm our turkeys and geese are grown to full maturity and to the highest welfare standards. They are dry plucked and hung for at least seven days according to traditional farming methods which has been handed down to us through three generations.”
The poultry is initially plucked by machines, a substantial investment of £20,000 made by the entrepreneurial farmers, which removes 85% of the feathers. Finally the birds are dry-waxed and the remaining quills removed by hand by the 15-strong labour force, most of whom have been part of the team working at the farm for many years.
The turkeys are then hung in large, specially made refrigeration units for up to 14 days to enhance flavour, before being eviscerated, cleaned and boxed for delivery or collection from the farm. Tim comments: “They are matured in temperature controlled rooms which meet stringent regulations with regular on-site inspections by DEFRA, MHS and Trading Standards.”
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