free range hens chickens

Chickens having “a lovely time” with “a lot of space to run around”. An enthusiastic Ruth Sanderson painted a rosy picture of Fosse Meadows Farm, Leicestershire, in On Your Farm (BBC Radio 4, 9 September, 6.35am). Perhaps this is to be expected in an episode titled ‘Happy Chickens’. After all, Sanderson’s previous experience has been somewhat limited to seeing them in “an industrial context where space is at a premium”.

Fosse Meadows Farm, it seems, is quite the opposite. The chickens race “all over the place”, exclaimed Sanderson. And the birds are reared over 81 days, explained co-owner Jacob Sykes, which “is a good four weeks longer than other free-range chickens and a couple of weeks longer than organic,” adding to the flavour.

You might expect to pay a premium for these high-welfare birds, but Sykes assured Sanderson that “the price per kilo is no different than what you’d find in the supermarket, it just so happens that they’re bigger.” And even if the birds were more expensive, Sanderson pointed out “we need to stop thinking about chicken as being a cheap option on the menu”.

And according to co-owner Nick Ball, this change of opinion is starting to happen. So, could free-range, slow-reared birds become the norm for UK farms? “This won’t be the norm, but people will start to change and think more about what they’re eating,” said Sykes. “And we’re hopefully going to give them the opportunity to still eat meat in an ethical way.”