MyMarlow was recently invited to visit the Copas turkey farm at Cookham Dean, who are this year celebrating 60 years in business.
A couple of years ago, we hosted a large family Christmas and bought a Copas turkey – I was attracted by the idea of it being raised just a couple of miles from Marlow. It went down extremely well, with many compliments for how good the turkey tasted. So, I was keen to accept the invite and get a closer look at how these turkeys are raised…
We met with Tom and Verity Copas who explained the farm has come on a bit since that first year when 153 turkeys were reared, and sold door-to-door around Cookham! Nowadays the turkeys are sold in independent butchers countrywide and exported too. They will also have a retail outlet in Marlow soon, since Copas will be providing turkeys to The Butcher’s Tap – Tom Kerridge’s butchers/pub opening in November.
You can of course buy turkeys direct from the farm either arranging for delivery or attending their “collection day” on the 23rd – which for many customers is quite an event in itself with food and drink tastings and demonstrations, a visit from Father Christmas and his reindeer, and other festive fun.
We were taken for a tour round the farm – some of which is accessible via a public footpath running through it.
The official definition of “Free Range” requires a defined minimum amount of space per bird and continuous daytime access to open-air runs. Copas have much more space than this requirement – and 24 hour access to open-air.
The first surprising thing was how the turkeys came up to the fence where we were stood. This is nothing to do with them expecting food, just due to their inquisitive nature. Make “gobble gobble” type noises… and they will answer back!
Next surprise was to see musical instruments hung up at various locations, with the turkeys apparently enjoying prodding and poking the xylophone and tambourine.
Tom and Verity were keen to highlight the lengths they go to to ensure the best possible lives for the turkeys. In addition to the instruments, they sometimes play radio in the barns, and give them “fireworks training”. Like many animals, turkeys are not great with the sounds of fireworks displays – so they are gradually acclimatized to the sound of fireworks in the build up to the 5th November.
Finally, I was definitely NOT expecting to see a small herd of Alpacas wandering freely in with the turkeys! This is all part of keeping foxes away – and it really does seem to work.
As part of the 60th year celebrations, Copas have launched 2 books, one a cookery book and the other is a children’s story based on real events to Copas Farm! Verity said they were keen to help children understand where the food they eat comes from, and this seems a worthy aim given recent studies showing children are becoming less connected to the food ending up on their plate.
Tom and Verity are very proud of the approach taken by Copas – raising only heritage breeds, growing them to full maturity (unlike a typical supermarket bird), and then finally having them hand plucked and game hung for two weeks. I was impressed by their approach and commitment to the birds welfare.
I’d encourage you to take a walk along the public footpaths, where you can see all this for yourself. However, if you don’t want to trek up there, the Copas website includes a Turkey cam – so you can keep an eye on the flock, and maybe spot the Alpaca guards!
The farm featured in the BBC Show “Countryfile Autumn Diaries” which at time of writing can be viewed online here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b09d9fmv/countryfile-autumn-diaries-2017-episode-4
More info, of course here : www.copasturkeys.co.uk