Life is good for free-range chickens: the opportunity to come and go as you please, fresh pasture to peck and Tasmanian-grown grain.
This life is what awaits the chickens farmed at Sassafras for the new Nichols Ethical Free Range chicken brand.
Nichols Poultry founder Rob Nichols said the free-range chicken brand was part of his long-term vision and had been in development over the past 6-8 months.
“For a number of years consumers have asked us to supply free-range chicken, but we felt the standards fell short so we wanted to come up with something that exceeds consumer’s expectations,” Mr Nichols said.
Nichols free-range chickens live in small colonies, or “villages”, of up to 2400 birds spread between three mobile sheds, which is based on a European free-range system.
The farm allows for up to 4500 birds a hectare, which Mr Nichols said lessened the competition and allowed them to thrive.
Nichols free-range birds will be sold at a higher price, which accounts for the added costs involved in production.
However, this is also reflected in a better tasting product, Mr Nichols said.
“The free range chicken is superior to our own [existing] product. The texture of the meat is better and the flavour is there too. This is what free range is,” he said.
English poultry grower Robert Caldecott from Caldecott Turkey Farms was at the Nichols free range launch.
Mr Caldecott produces free range chickens in North Worcestershire, but said he was impressed with the conditions at the Sassafras farm.
“This is giving chickens a perfect life. It’s great to see their natural behaviour, such as sparring,” Mr Caldecott said.
Now the free range system has been tested at Nichols’ Sassafras farm, Mr Nichols said it could be rolled out easily with more villages on the property and to contract growers who wanted to enter the free range market.
A public field day will be held at Nichols Poultry farm, Chapel Rd, Sassafras, tomorrow between 10am and 4pm.