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Life on the Egg farm

Aren’t all free range egg farms the same?

Well it turns out the answer is no.

Like everything there are good ones and some not so good.

Some with heaps of space per chook and some with not much at all.
Some with lots of trees and shelter to enjoy and some without any.

There are some with large industrial sized flocks and some with small flocks.

There are some that welcome third party independent inspectors and some that are not keen on that at all.

This is why we decided to get into the egg business.

How much space do our girls enjoy?

Heaps. But to be exact the absolute maximum number of chooks allowed per hectare on one of our farms is 2000.

What is so special about a Freedom Farm?

For us it’s about the whole picture.

We like the idea of heaps of space, big grassy fields, lots of shelter, big trees, small happy families, lots of cuddles from the nice AsureQuality auditors and bedtime stories for all the girls every night (well maybe not every night… but you get the idea).

We reckon happy chooks lay the tastiest eggs.

Does Freedom Farms also farm chooks in battery cages? Ever?

Absolutely not.

That’s why we say “Farmed the Freedom way. No exceptions”.

What about beak tipping?

We take guidance from the animal welfare experts on this issue.

Our farmers receive their birds from the hatchery at one day old. They arrive with the very end hook part of their beak already trimmed off. This has been done by infrared laser and we are assured the process is relatively painless and stress free. The birds can still display all their natural behaviours including digging for bugs and grooming.

It is prohibited to tip the birds beaks by any other method or at any other age.

We regularly consult with animal welfare experts and will update our standards in line with any advice we receive from them. 

Life on the Chicken farm

I thought no meat chickens were raised in cages… why should I bother with ‘free range’ then?

Yip, you’re right… meat (broiler) chickens aren’t raised in cages like those poor egg laying hens we’ve all seen online and on the telly.

But… lots of them aren’t exactly living the good life either. No sunshine. No fresh air. No space.

We reckon free range chooks should be able to stroll around in the fresh air for the whole day, forage around the gardens, enjoy shade under the trees and have a nice safe house to settle down in at night.

Sounds about right… right? So that’s the life we demand our chooks have… simple. 

What about hormones and steroids? Are the chickens pumped up like feathery little body builders?

No kiwi chooks are fed hormones or steroids – artificial or otherwise.

The use of growth hormones has been banned by the NZ Poultry Association for more than 30 years… woohoo! Actually, there’s little evidence that NZ farmers ever actually used them before that anyway.

And antibiotics? Don’t they all get antibiotics in the feed?

Antibiotics are only used under guidance of a vet… either to treat sick birds or control spread of an infection if it occurs in a flock. The antibiotics prescribed are generally not used for human illnesses… and there are strict rules to make sure the antibiotics are safely out of the chicken meat before it is processed.

Would we prefer that the chickens never need antibiotics… of course. Less antibiotics = less superbugs. But… we’re not ever going to be comfortable with a bird not being treated if it is sick. In fact… that’s against everything we believe in.

Don’t you agree?

Are the chickens Halal accredited?

Yip… our processors have accreditation from the New Zealand Islamic Development Trust. This has absolutely no impact on the welfare of chickens at the abattoir – they are still processed according to our welfare standards.

What breed are the chickens?

Freedom Farms free range chickens are the Ross 308 breed. This is the most common breed of meat chicken in the world. They’re a white chicken with a broad breast and strong short legs. 

How much room do the chooks have?

Heaps. The maximum stocking density is 34kg of chickens every square metre indoors… but most of the time it’s less than this.

Outside the chooks have a maximum stocking density of 10 birds per square metre… again this is a limit not a norm.

You may have heard the saying ‘birds of a feather flock together’…? That’s quite true… chooks feel safer when they stand close together… so you’ll often find a big open space with lots of huddles of chickens dotted around the place. 

Pork Foodie Questions

What’s with the water in ham and bacon?

Well it’s normal to have water in the brine used to cure the ham or bacon (but dry cure bacon can be made with just salt and sugar rubbed on the meat).

Trick is though, the more water you put in, the cheaper you can make the stuff.

We reckon people don’t want that… so we try real hard to make dryer style bacon and ham.

Our piggies deserve the best.

How do I store a ham?

In a ham bag is best.

If you don’t have a ham bag… you can use a clean pillow slip (take out the pillow first).

First mix a tablespoon of vinegar with water and soak the bag… it only needs to be damp. Then pop in your ham and keep it in the fridge.

Repeat the process every 5 days or so.

Can I freeze my bacon or ham?

Sure you can. But it is actually better if you can avoid it as it tends to thaw out wetter than before you put it in… because the cells ‘pop’ as they expand when freezing. 

How to do a perfect pork roast..and cooking times?(thks Hugh)

We reckon the guru on roasting is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

His ideas are you always start with a “half hour sizzle’ then turn it down. He goes into huge depth on the reasons why in his book The River Cottage Meat Book… if you are interested.

It works…

So to quote Hugh it’s like this…
– Heat the oven up to 220 oC
– Roast your cut for 20 min (up to 2 kg)… 30 min(over 2kg)… 45 min(over 3 kg)… this is called the “sizzle”.

– Turn down oven to 160oC
– Then roast for 25 min per 500g… for whole fillet, whole scotch, rolled leg
…or 30 min for belly, shoulder, bone in leg and loin roasts.
– Remove and rest for 10 mins before carving.

You do not have to overcook pork… treat it like beef and its best medium really… it’s not like chicken. Juices just need to run clear.

What about nitrates and nitrites? Do you use them?

Yip, we do use a very small amount of sodium nitrate and nitrite in our bacon. The nitrates conversation is something we’ve been grappling with since Freedom Farms started 12 years ago, and we’re aware it’s had quite a bit of media coverage recently. The research has been around since the 1970s, but the arguments are still really complicated and the pros and cons far from clear. For a bit of background on the ‘expert’ position… click here to see what Food Standards Australia NZ have to say.

We did offer a preservative free bacon for a while, but it was a very slow seller and the supermarkets all dropped it eventually. But we’re still open to it. We have re-started discussions with the grocery stores about developing an old-school dry cured bacon with nothing added except pork, salt, sugar and smoke… we really need them on board to make it a viable path to go down, so we’re getting that process underway.

Our view on nitrates is that there is still considerable disagreement about the relative risks and their causes. We’ve read as much as I can on both sides of the argument, we’ve spoken to food scientists in NZ, and are familiar with the work of Bee Wilson, who’s article in The Guardian has fuelled a lot of recent conversation. It’d be a wonderful thing if reducing cancer risk was as simple as just swapping out one ingredient! We reckon that what is important (and sometimes missing from these conversations) is sensible moderate consumption of bacon (and other processed meat/red meat) as a ‘treat’ food.

Egg Foodie Questions

What’s with the sizes of eggs? Size is important after all

Most Free range eggs come in boxes labelled mixed grade.

This means a lucky dip of different sizes.

We decided to offer our eggs in various sizes so every egg in the box is the same. 

It goes like this.

M-our not too big eggs -M stands for medium
L-our big eggs-L stands for large
XL-our really big eggs -XL stands for ?

Brilliant eh.

Chook Foodie Questions

I don’t want to get sick… how should I cook my chook?

This one isn’t as tricky as people think… you just have to be careful about how you handle your bird! Common sense goes a long way here…

Don’t wash your chicken in the sink (…or the bath… or the shower) – all that achieves is spreading any bugs around. If your chicken is a bit moist, blot it with paper towels then pop them straight in the bin.

Cross contamination is a big problem when it comes to managing foodborne illnesses… anything that gets chicken on it should be washed with hot soapy water before it comes into contact with anything else… think about your chopping board, knives, kitchen sponge/cloth and that tea towel you used to wipe your hands after you took the chicken out of its packaging! Some people find it easier to use a separate chopping board, or do all the other prep first so the chicken is the last thing you have to do.

Frequently washing your hands should be a part of your kitchen routine anyway, whether you are preparing chicken or not. The 20/20 rule is a good one… wash for 20 seconds with hot soapy water, then dry for 20 seconds with a clean dry towel (…not the back of your pants!).

Finally, the cooking part. There are no magic tricks here. Your chicken is safe to eat when it is cooked to an internal temp of at least 74oC. The best way to gauge this is with a meat thermometer… and in the meatiest part of the chicken (the thickest part of the breast or the inner part of the thigh). If you don’t have a meat thermometer, stick a knife in those meaty bits and check that the juices run clear (not pink). But really, you should probably just invest in a meat thermometer… it makes cooking so much easier!