How Free is your Free Range Chicken?

I sat on a bench at Waterloo Station with Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall not long after he took on Tesco over chickens. Although he was cross because his car was late picking him up for a TV show, in the five minutes we spoke, we had an great meeting of minds over free range chicken.

When you buy free range chicken you picture the chickens running around the field, happy in their lives, enjoying the freedom. True?

I though the same until I started looking into this.

According to DEFRA Free Range Chicken must have outside access for over half their lives. This is the ‘standard’ Free Range Chicken you can buy in Supermarkets, but these chickens are raised in large sheds which although less intensively stocked than the traditional broiler, are probably far from the picture most would associate with Free Range.

Free Range (Uncaged) Chickens in a Chicken House

Is this your picture of Free Range Chicken?

The chickens in this picture are Free Range as they have access to the outside, but they are still fairly intensively stocked.

If you are looking for ‘real’ Free Range you might want to disregard those that are described as Free Range and look for labels which describe the birds as Traditional Free Range or Free Range Total Freedom.

Jamies Hampshire Free Range Chicken

Total Freedom Free Range Chicken

When we first met Jamie at Locks Drove Farm he was keen to impress on us the difference and that they believed that a Free Range Chicken should be kept in small sheds without restriction to their roaming. The slower growing birds develop more flavour and enjoy a more natural live, being able to scratch around and feed in a woodland environment as they did in times gone by.

We chose Jamie’s Free Range Chicken for Chilbolton Stores as they were not only local, but in my opinion the best type of chicken, as they are truly free to range, have 24-hour access to the outdoors, to breathe fresh air, to have access to a large meadow, field or orchard, to peck and scratch about and to have a truly natural existence; to be protected from foxes and other vermin by an electric security fence; to have shelter from the weather when needed; to have a place to roost and a plentiful supply of grain and fresh water.

Total Freedom Free Range Chicken are truly happy chickens…

…and they taste delicious 🙂