What pasture raised means to us – or in our case, raised on open wood lands.
There is a lot of different messaging and terms thrown about when discussing chicken farming, and we find that it can be confusing for the consumer to work out what actually sits well with their individual standards.
So, what does free range and pasture raised really mean?
RSPCA Free-Range Chicken guidelines stipulate that the bird must have access to an outdoor area for at least six hours a day and must have at least 2 square feet of outdoor space. This outdoor space does not need to have any living vegetation for them to explore/eat. They also have guidelines for how the birds are treated when they are locked inside for example density rates, lighting, ventilation etc.
So, how does that differ from what we do? How is pasture raised different from free range?
Our birds are raised on open, grassy box gum woodlands. Once our birds are old enough to have their adult feathers they can regulate their own body temperatures, and they are then allowed to roam free 24/7.
Shelters are available if they choose to use them, however, we find they only really choose to use them if the weather is bad, to get out of the rain or the wind. The key difference is they are not required to be locked in at night, which is why we have our maremma dogs to protect them from predators.
The benefit of this is it allows for them to follow their natural body clock and forage when it feels right to them, not just when they are let out.
The woodland areas they live in are large paddocks filled with plenty grasses, trees and bugs for them to forage, graze and explore.
Each paddock is roughly around 5 hectares (50,000 meters squared), so there is well and truly enough space for all of our birds and then some, as well as plenty of space for our dogs to run around.
It is worth pointing out there are farms that use the term ‘pasture raised’ who follow very different standards/protocols to us. A lot of farms that use the term pasture raised often grow their birds in chicken tractors, which are bottomless pens on wheels. These pens get moved daily which is good for the soil as they provide manure and do not remain in one area too long.
However, they are not good for the bird, the birds are still confined to a small space, and the grass they are supposedly grazing on is quickly covered in manure. This style of farming is not PROOF accredited because the birds are kept in cages (pens) and are not able to freely forage/carry out natural behaviours. So, a good rule of thumb when purchasing chicken is to look out for PROOF’s tick of approval and to make sure you have done your research. We have always valued the importance of being completely transparent with our customers as we wholeheartedly believe it is important to know where your produce comes from.
The first difference you might notice is the price. There’s no doubt that cost of producing our product is higher, but it does offer better value.
Grassland Poultry chickens don’t shrink, so the size you buy is the size that comes out of the oven. Our customers are constantly commenting on how far their chicken goes… dinner, lunches, another dinner even. If you’ve come to expect your chicken to shrink the moment you roast it, you’re in for a pleasant surprise with nutrient-dense Grassland Poultry heritage chickens.
Did we mention the flavour? The texture? Many people have stopped eating chicken simply because it’s so hard to find poultry with the flavour and texture it used to have. There are a lot of reasons for this but the way we raise our birds means they taste like they used to… like they actually should. A chicken filled with nutritious goodness that can only come from healthy, nurtured farmland and fastidious dedication to animal welfare. Great tasting meat results from giving the birds the ability to forage and the freedom to choose what they might like to eat. Ultimately, they know best.
Being able to forage creates a diverse diet of leafy greens / grass, insects, worms and other microorganisms found in the soil. And having continuous access to this type of vegetation significantly lifts the Vitamin A and E, carotenoids, good fats and Omega-3 fatty acids within the chickens.
Plus, by looking for alternate natural feeds significantly decreases the disease level within the flock. This means we don’t need to use medications in their food or water. In fact, we avoid medications all together and instead use natural remedies if needed with great success.
The benefits of these practices are extensive. Not only do you enjoy the health benefits of eating truly free range, grass-fed poultry, the birds mature slowly and live the way chickens are meant to, and our soil community is nourished by the natural fertilizer the poultry produce, helping it regenerate and benefiting all that is grown in it or grazes on it.
Finally, the way chickens are processed makes an enormous difference to both the welfare of the bird and the quality of the end product. Our processing facility allows us to have complete control over what we do, right here on the farm.
Our birds are spared the trauma of travel and are processed in the most humane manner possible, by hand, resulting in superior quality produce. Air chilling allows us to avoid the introduction of chemicals and liquid weight and any waste is composted back into the farm.
It’s not the cheapest way to raise chickens, but there really are no shortcuts to raising healthy, happy chickens that have that old Sunday roast taste – the way they used to.
When you buy Grassland Poultry Sommerlad Heritage chicken, you’re supporting ethical growing and sustainable regenerative farming in Australia. Your chicken lived well, foraged, followed its natural instincts, grew at its own, natural pace and was processed humanely and without stress on the farm.
And that’s a good thing.