Slaughter and Butchery, Respect and Responsibility
This subject is one that usually remains undisclosed, not discussed, but one that we strongly believe our customers have the right to ask questions about. If you are reading this and it doesn't answer your questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch.
We are keen to be transparent about slaughter and butchery, an area that is often clothed in secrecy. Indeed, a subject which farmer's themselves allow to be pushed away even though, in itself, this can make or ruin the product of their tireless labour. There is much to consider and choices to be made, the consequences of which are far reaching across all aspects from animal welfare and food safety to food security and meat quality.
A Special Concern for Poultry
We feel compelled to tell you that if you make one change to the meat that you eat, please let it be for chicken. The UK broiler industry (this is the term that is used to describe a chicken reared for meat as oppose to egg laying) is huge, horrific and hidden.
The British appetite for this type of protein is enormous. Manipulated into shapes of all sorts, often described by its coating, added flavour or packaging are these incredible volumes of cheap, imported, frozen and defrosted, re-worked, preservative laden 'chicken' products aimed at our children through canteens in schools, widely available in supermarkets and 'restaurants', we should be ashamed of ourselves.
Others have and continue to champion the cause for better standards of 'standard' chicken. We support them and wish them luck. For us, a wholesale change was the only way we could continue to eat and enjoy poultry.
We designed and built our own poultry growing and slaughter facilities on our farm over 15 years ago in order to protect the integrity of our beautiful birds. At the time we commissioned equipment and standards that applied to business' slaughtering 10,000 birds a week. At just 20 birds a week, in those days, this might have seemed a bit over the top, but our drive to do the best job we could for welfare and an excellent finished product meant first class facilities and equipment where and when it matters most.
We imported equipment designed for a smaller scale, but delivering a top-quality job from Italy, no coincidence there in that so many smaller scale farming/food businesses support a vibrant nation of foodies.
Our birds live in colonies of 250 with freedom to range over our organic pasture, exploring, scratching, pecking, flocking, growing steadily and slowly. The lifespan of a commercial broiler chicken is a maximum of 40 days, but it can be as little as 28 days from the egg to the finished chicken. With concentrated feed and little room or encouragement to exercise, it comes as no surprise that they are fat, no, obese; often uncomfortable (too heavy for their underdeveloped legs), then suffering the indignity of being literally swept up in a 'chicken catching' frenzy, in the largest businesses by machine.
Our chickens on the other hand, grow and mature slowly, a minimum lifespan of 96 days when they are still very healthily charging about our paddocks.
When we take poultry for slaughter, every bird is handled individually, calmly, quietly. Collected from the field early in the morning the birds are taken straight to our facility in our familiar hands. Here they are individually stunned, effectively, an individual stun applied to one bird at a time that we carefully monitor. This renders the bird unconscious before slaughter. Our slaughter man is licensed to deliver a fatal neck cut (as in every slaughter business) but the difference here is that every stun is checked, every cut is accurate, nothing is automated.
Continuing the plucking, chilling and dressing process by hand allows us to keep the beautiful finish of our oven-ready birds the our customers enjoy. We always provide the pack of giblets (offal from the actual bird) tucked into the body cavity, essential when it comes to good gravy for a roast dinner.
In 2007 Will & Meg recorded an episode of 'Jimmy Doherty's Farming Heroes' for BBC Television and had the opportunity to talk openly to a very wide audience about the reasons for farming in this way and taking full responsibility down the line. Whilst preparing roast chicken with Jimmy in front of the cameras, Meg coined the phrase "This is chicken you can feel really good about". In the 13 years since, this hasn't changed.