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British turkey tycoon Bernard Matthews dies at 80

November 26, 2010 |  9:09 am

Matthews Bernard Matthews, who parlayed an investment in 20 eggs into a business that became Britain's biggest turkey processor -- once raising the birds in the rooms of a large country home -- has died. He was 80.

Matthews died Thursday at his home, the company said Friday. The cause of death was not announced.

"Bootiful," Matthews' Norfolk-inflected pronunciation of "beautiful," became one of Britain's best-known advertising slogans in a series of television ads in the 1980s.

In recent years, the company was targeted by animal-rights groups for its intensive farming, and sales were hit in 2007 when one farm reported Britain's first outbreak of bird flu.

One of the company's products, Turkey Twizzlers, was singled out five years ago by TV chef Jamie Oliver as an example of excessively fatty food in school meals, and the product disappeared from many lunch menus.

Matthews, who stepped down as chairman of the company in January, started the business in 1950 with 20 eggs and a secondhand incubator. A dozen eggs hatched, Matthews sold the chicks at a profit and he was on his way.

Three years later, he bought a derelict country house, Great Witchingham Hall, where he and his wife, Joyce, raised turkeys in all but one of the 36 rooms. It is still the company headquarters.

-- Associated Press

Photo: Bernard Matthews outside No. 10 Downing Street in 1979. Credit: Associated Press