The Sommerlad family originally hand-reared their slow growing heritage bred chickens on their 1,300 acre property ‘Kildare,’ just out of Tenterfield from 2014-2017. Six generations of traditional poultry practices has culminated in the development of a chook that boasts superior, high welfare characteristics. Active in foraging, balanced body conformation, strong legs, and a naturally improved endurance to diseases. These are the breeds of Australia’s yesteryear: Australian Game, Light Sussex, Croad Langshan, Plymouth Rock.
Now, just a handful of farmers raise these exceptional birds. Meet our farmers here, or read on to learn more about these multi-award winning chickens as grown by Bryan and Kim Kiss, from Grassland Poultry.
Baby chicks hatch and brood, then move to explore paddocks where a life of free-range pasture awaits. Select birds aged between 12 and 16 weeks are chosen for Hand Sourced.
Chickens grow as chickens should. Naturally grazing on grass, grit and clean pasture soil, their instinctive foraging maintains prime gut health and gizzard development. The inherently slow growth allows organs, muscles and bones to grow in harmony, dismissing need for antibiotics and actinic intervention.
The Kiss family apply no agricultural chemicals. No synthetic fertilisers, no pesticides or herbicides. No nasties. It is a large investment. Up to four generations reside on the farm at any one time. In an age when nearly all chicken eaten in Australia comes from the same Ross or Cobb stock, Sommerlad represents a quiet revolution in our country’s chicken farming.
“We have bred our birds to ensure the best welfare outcomes as they forage on our pastures while promising an unparalleled dining experience unlike any other available from Australia.
– Michael Sommerlad
Differences to Note
Colours become deeper with outdoor pasture rearing and whole grain feeding. The skin on a Sommerlad can be attributed to exclusive parentage with variances from a deep yellow to a pinkish/white expected, depending on pedigree. In the kitchen, Sommerlad Chickens are known for their strong skin which offers exceptional handling quality and a superb crispness once cooked.
Sommerlad Chickens boast a natural hued plumage. Occasionally, signs of feathers may remain. More mature when processed, feathers have a stronger hold on the bird’s body. Every bird is ‘hand finished’ in preparation for packaging, and signs of their ruff is part of the guarantee of provenance.
Sommerlad Chickens have an elongated body, well-developed legs, and large, strong bones. Their outdoor foraging life and slow growth rate mean organs, muscles and skeletal system grow in harmony.
Meat colour varies within each bird. Typically, expect distinctly darker meat around the legs and thighs and cleaner, whiter breast meat. A delightful brownish/pink tinge is often evident in the cooked meat (usually through the legs and thigh); it should not be confused with under cooking and is natural.
Texture and Flavour
Heritage and slow growth give Sommerlad Chickens a distinctive and genuine depth of flavour. The texture is firm to the mouth. Their large strong bones are perfect for making nutritious stock.
‘Air-Chilling’ ‘Cold Scalding’ and superior processing
Sommerlad table birds are processed using the superior ‘Air Chill’ method. No chemicals are applied to the skin, ever. The scald of 63C protects the ‘bloom’ of the skin. After plucking and evisceration, the birds drain before ‘air chilling’ on racks for a minimum of 24 hours, allowing the meat to rest before packaging commences. Compare this to the common process of a hot scald followed by a plunge into heavy chlorinated icy water of up to 150 ppm (some higher) which they invariably absorb. After 20 minutes a ‘bleaching effect’ occurs, removing the skin’s natural bloom.
Packaging and Handling
They will keep refrigerated for up to 7 days, and frozen for at least 2 years. The cooked finish is not compromised by the freezing process.
Whole Chicken Sizes:
Sizes range between approximately 1.2 kg to 3.6 kg. Birds are hand selected to meet customer orders, and where possible we aim to provide your preferred size. However, as Grassland Poultry raise very small flocks, we cannot offer large quantities of birds exactly the same size. Older birds and/or larger roosters (coq) are available by special order.
Low and slow cooking perfectly complements these birds. It’s important to fully defrost in the refrigerator for at least 48 hours before cooking.
You may sometimes find a numbered wing band on a Sommerlad Chicken. These bands allow the farmers to identify and trace each bird’s breeding heritage (like an ear tag for sheep and cattle). You can cut this out, however there are no problems leaving it attached during cooking. You are very welcome to quote the number should you like to send any valuable feedback.