The media, consumers and celebrity chefs simply cannot stop talking about food provenance at the moment, says Peter King of 2 Sisters
With two out of three consumers now wanting to buy more locally produced food, it's not surprising that farmers and retailers are seeking to promote their new and exciting ranges of British chicken. At 2 Sisters we're no exception and we aspire to be the leading supplier of regionally sourced chicken.
The good news for consumers in East Anglia, Lincolnshire and more recently Scotland is that they can now buy locally reared and sourced chicken from their local Tesco store. Elsewhere, my colleagues at Haughley Park have worked with Uniq and Bakkavör to develop a new additive-free sandwich and salad range for M&S. This new range was successfully launched in April and now uses 100% British meat.
We all know that by selecting chicken that carries the Red Tractor logo and Union Jack, the customer can be assured that the chicken they buy has been reared and produced in Britain to independently checked standards right across the food chain, from farm to pack. But is this enough? Our farmers at Lloyd Maunder have gone two steps further. They are so proud of what they do, they have offered their customers the opportunity of tracing their chickens all the way back to the farm via the company's website. By entering the name of the farm on the retail pack, customers can read about the farm where their chicken was reared.
Our ability to respond quickly to consumer demand has been most evident in Devon, where our farmers have responded spectacularly to the sudden jump in market demand for specialist chicken. In January the site was producing 75,000 chickens per week under the Freedom Food label and by August it will be producing 250,000, a 330% increase in just seven months. This strong organic growth in specialist chicken, such as Willow Farm, Oakham and Freedom Food, means we are now well on our way to our goal of rearing half our chicken under more extensive production systems by 2010.
However, the British consumer wants affordable food. 2 Sisters Food Group is therefore supporting an industry initiative that will promote indoor-reared chicken as an acceptable option. Within this range of choice is Willow Farm chicken, priced slightly above standard-labelled chicken, but retailing cheaper than free-range. This is a slower-growing breed of chicken, housed in spacious barns with straw bales. The barns also have large windows and the birds are fed a specially formulated diet that gives a better-flavoured, more succulent chicken.