Mon. Apr 15th, 2024
alert-–-bernard-matthews-turkey-factory-is-to-close-at-cost-of-600-jobs-as-loss-making-firm-fails-to-find-a-buyerAlert – Bernard Matthews turkey factory is to close at cost of 600 jobs as loss-making firm fails to find a buyer

Bernard Matthews’ turkey factory is set to close down leaving 600 jobs at stake after the firm failed to find a buyer for the 70-year-old facility. 

The food company revealed in January that the facility in Great Witchingham, Norfolk, is ‘no longer commercially viable despite investment and efforts to secure more business’. 

Last year, the company reported losses of £10 million, following £25 million losses in 2022. The firm supplies around seven million turkeys a year.

The company said that a ‘large majority of colleagues’ employed at the branch will be offered roles at their five poultry processing locations in Norfolk and Suffolk.

It became a household name when founder Bernard Matthews appeared on TV ads saying in a broad Norfolk accent that their turkey products were ‘bootiful’.

Bernard Matthews' turkey factory is set to close down, leaving 600 jobs at stake

Bernard Matthews’ turkey factory is set to close down, leaving 600 jobs at stake 

The Great Witchingham was the first factory purchased by Mr Matthews in 1955 and it became the company's HQ and home to hatching, rearing and preparing turkeys

The Great Witchingham was the first factory purchased by Mr Matthews in 1955 and it became the company’s HQ and home to hatching, rearing and preparing turkeys

Bernard Matthews is known for many nostalgic meat products, such as turkey Twizzlers

Bernard Matthews is known for many nostalgic meat products, such as turkey Twizzlers 

The Great Witchingham was the first factory purchased by Mr Matthews in 1955 and it became the company’s HQ and home to hatching, rearing and preparing turkeys.

A company spokesman said: ‘Following a period of extensive consultations with colleagues, regrettably we can confirm that the proposal to close our site at Great Witchingham will now proceed.

‘We understand this will be very disappointing news for all concerned and a very difficult time for colleagues, who we commend for acting in such a professional and courteous manner during this unsettling period.

‘We are pleased to confirm that the large majority of colleagues will be offered roles at our five poultry processing locations in Norfolk and Suffolk.

‘Remaining colleagues will be fully supported and all options explored before any final decisions are made.

‘Whilst we recognise that it is difficult to satisfy every employee in these difficult circumstances, we remain committed to doing all we can and will be offering additional support until operations wind down in the coming weeks.’

A date for when the Great Witchingham will close is due to be announced at the end of the month.

The company also has plants in Attleborough and Thetford in Norfolk, and Holton, Flixton and Eye in Suffolk.

The life of Bernard Matthews 

Bernard Matthews was born in in Brooke, Norfolk in 1930 and was the son of a struggling mechanic. 

He left school at 16 and, after brief stints in the RAF’s 617 ‘Dam Busters’ squadron and a local auctioneering company, turned his hand to turkeys.

He was an 18-year-old trainee livestock auctioneer when he saw 20 freshly laid turkey eggs for sale.

He bought them for a shilling each in 1950, along with a second-hand incubator.

In the 1980s, Bernard Matthews entered the Guinness Book of Records as the biggest turkey farmer in Europe

In the 1980s, Bernard Matthews entered the Guinness Book of Records as the biggest turkey farmer in Europe

12 turkeys hatched which he sold to a local farmer for the equivalent of £9 today. 

After two years’ National Service, he tried setting up in his future mother-in-law’s back garden.

But in 1955 he spent £3,000 buying the dilapidated Great Witchingham Hall in Norfolk, which has 36 acres of land. He filled its 35 rooms with turkeys.

While he and his wife lived in two rooms which were not heated, turkeys were hatched in the dining room, reared in the Jacobean bedrooms and slaughtered in the kitchens.

In the 1980s, Bernard Matthews entered the Guinness Book of Records as the biggest turkey farmer in Europe. 

Over the years, he and his company experienced criticism from animal welfare groups, nutritionists and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver who condemned Matthews’s Turkey Twizzlers on his 2005 television programme Jamie’s School Dinners. 

When he died in 2010, aged 80, Mr Matthews had amassed a personal fortune estimated at over £300million.

In 2016 another entrepreneur Ranjit Singh Boparan purchased the Bernard Matthews business.  

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