How We Farm
Conventional vs pasture-raised?
We raise a small number of chickens on pasture, over twice the period of time that industrial chickens are raised. Industrial can mean anything from barn raised, free-range, RSPCA approved, pasture-raised and even organic chicken. It is a production system that focuses on reducing the costs (labour & feed) and maximising the output (chicken). This is at the expense of the animals, our environment and those that work in the industry. We have all seen the horrendous footage of Australian broiler sheds - this has enabled chicken to be a dirt cheap everyday commodity at $2.75/kg.
We @broadchurchfarm are not trying to compete because we simply cannot. Our feed costs per chicken is $6, which equates to $3/kg alone! This does not include costs such as day-old chicks, brooder electricity, wood shavings or heat lamps, fuel, freight, packaging costs, transport to and from the abattoir, processing fees, certification and auditing costs or general upkeep of infrastructure and vehicles, but most importantly a wage for the farmer. For this to be sustainable we have to pay Calum a wage, even if it’s only a minimal part-time one.
We are not raising chickens for you to consume it five nights a week, we are creating an alternative for those that want to consume meat consciously. So sit down, connect with the food, know your farmer and enjoy a chicken that you know has been raised well.
How do we raise the chickens?
We buy day old chicks from a hatchery on the mainland and brood them in a warm environment, protected from the elements for two weeks. We only raise 250 chickens a month. We then move them onto pasture with a floorless, open shelter. We move them by hand daily to fresh ground and they’re protected from predators by an electric net. We raise the chickens to 8-9 weeks old, more than double the age of chickens in an industrial setting. This small-scale, hand raised system encourages the chickens to explore, forage and exercise. Allowing chickens this natural lifestyle results in super healthy birds with well formed muscles and produces meat with texture and flavour.
What do we feed them?
We often get asked if we feed our chickens grain and the answer is yes. It is quite common for people to believe that chickens can be raised solely on pasture but the chickens grow incredibly slowly and suffer from developmental issues due to the lack of nutrients provided by forage alone - that is not to say that the forage has no benefits! Our chickens diet is around 30% pasture and bugs. The remainder is a custom made feed milled here in Tasmania, that contains the right amount of protein for the chickens to grow healthily. We feed our chickens late morning so they do not have constant access to feed, this encourages them to forage and exercise more.
Why do we raise this breed?
The chickens we have chosen to raise are a hybrid meat bird that have been developed in Australia by experienced poultry breeder Dr Jeffery Moth from Nulkaba Hatchery in NSW. There are a few reasons we have chosen this bird:
Firstly the genetics are not owned by international poultry firms, they have been bred here in Australia for the free range environment over the last 20 years making them They are hardier and more suited to our environment than the common Ross and Cobb breeds.
These birds are friendly with very approachable temperaments which makes working with them every day very enjoyable!
They will grow to approximately 2kgs in 8-9 weeks (rather than the industry standard of 4) which we find is a great growth rate for flavour without feed and labour becoming prohibitively expensive.
We would like to look into the Sommerlad chicken in the future as we have heard great things about them but because we are so young (22 years old) with a very small amount of savings we had to make a choice to farm smart. To raise sommerlad chickens you must incubate eggs, raise a breeding flock, breed the chickens and then incubate eggs to raise new chickens for meat. Rather than having all that infrastructure and cost associated which would mean charging more per kg than we already do! We buy day-old chickens from the hatchery that arrive by plane the day they hatch and we brood them in a warm environment to 2-3 weeks old, before putting them on pasture for another 5-6 weeks. This allows us flexibility in our work so in winter when we experience snow and lots of rain we can stop our operation so the birds aren’t stressed leading to higher fatality.
We believe in farming small and farming smart. Our primary goal is to raise happy healthy chickens, our secondary goal is to utilise the chickens to improve pasture health and productivity as a means of increasing our soils carbon content and animal health. In short this carbon comes from the atmosphere and through photosynthesis our pasture turns it into chicken food (Grasses/pasture herbs) and soil carbon. The increased soil carbon will help extend our soil moisture content into the summer months as a means of drought proofing our farming land - not an overnight process but something we are working hard on. The increased pasture health results in better carbon drawdown and healthier animals both farmed and wild!
Where can you buy it?
Our chickens are stocked at
- Huon Valley Meat Co in West Hobart, - Meat Mistress in Sandy Bay (previously Bayside Meats),
- Unpacked in Kingston,
- Vermey's Quailty Meats in Sandy Bay
- Wursthaus in Salamanca
- Fork It Farm Lebrina (ONLY PLACE IN NORTH TASSIE)