CHICKEN

There are minimum standards set down by which a chicken must be kept to be called a free range chicken. These are pretty minimal and are basically:

"The birds have had during at least half their lifetime continuous daytime access to open-air runs, comprising an area mainly covered by vegetation, of not less than 1m² per chicken.

The birds should also be a minimum of 56 days old at slaughter and be fed a diet of a minimum 70% cereals during the fattening stage".


For more than half their life (which is a minimum of 77 days) our chickens have no option but to go outside as that is where feeders and drinkers are. The sheds are designed as a shelter only to encourage the chickens to exercise as often as possible, they have 24 hour access to the outside. Their feed is not some homogenised pellet but a more natural mix of whole grain and ground food that is 85% home grown and GM and ANTIBIOTIC free. When they are killed they are killed on farm without the stress of an often long journey or the indignity of being put live in shackles on a production line. When dead, they are then hung to mature to give a better table bird. This is our holistic approach which our customers agree produces a superb table bird and a genuine free range chicken. 

The best way to assure that you get a premium free range chicken is, of course, to buy a Robert & Edwards white chicken. The following sections contain some useful advice to consider before selecting and purchasing your chicken:

Skin
The skin should show good colour which will be more yellow in the summer and autumn when the grass is good. A grazing chicken will eat plenty of grass and will get colouring from the keratin that the grass contains. There may be blemishes on the skin from the plucking procedure, although these will not affect the taste. The legs should be well skinned and of good colour. The presence of dark discolouration on the hock is, contrary to popular opinion, no indication of the system by which the bird was reared. These hock "burns" are caused by the fact that the birds do not perch but sit on the ground. Mud can stick to the skin and cause this discolouration which has no adverse effect for the chicken. The mistake made by some is to associate this with lameness, hock "burn" does not cause lameness but a lame bird will get chronic hock "burn" as it spends all the time on its hock. When a chicken is grown too fast the bones will not develop quickly enough to support its weight and they will collapse onto their hocks. Growing the birds more slowly allows the bones to develop at the right pace to keep up with weight gain.

Shape 
Have a good look at the shape of the bird. If it is similar to the mass produced birds in having a huge breast and underdeveloped legs then the odds are it has done very little walking. Huge breasted birds are usually a sign of a pellet fed shed bird and should be avoided, good birds have a well developed leg and firm well finished breast that is no more than slightly heart shaped definitely not oval and hiding the wings.

Fat
The bird should have a taught firm feeling and not soft and floppy. Over fat birds are softer to touch and fat can be seen under the breast skin, some fat is necessary to facilitate cooking but excess is a waste. Internal fat is harder to judge as a bird can carry gut fat without being too fat. Usually, the larger a bird is the more fat it will carry.