Story by Jim Tanfield – Online editor
For the rest of April we are concentrating on chickens – expect some cracking recipes and brilliant tips to get the most out of every chicken you cook.
In line with this and to get to grips with Jamie’s ethical food sourcing policy for his restaurants, I took a trip up to Traditional Norfolk Poultry and was shown perhaps the most pampered chooks in the country.
Jamie’s Italian, like all of Jamie’s restaurants and retail operations, take every step to source the ultimate in ethically responsible food – after all, we all know that chickens can be the most controversial product of them all.
For starters Norfolk is a superb place to farm chickens, there is space, lots of it.
Spread out over 30 local farms, the TNP poultry are either raised in huge heated barns or in mobiles, which look a little like holiday chalets from ’70s childhood holidays; from both these types, they are able to wander free outside.
Technical manager Steve Allen is one of those guys who is so passionate about his job that you can’t help being dragged along by his enthusiasm; despite the business processing 40,000 birds every week, the welfare of every single chicken is paramount. The business surpasses all benchmarks required by the RSPCA, the Red Tractor Farm Assurance Poultry Scheme and the Organic Farmers and Growers. They are subject to an incredible amount of auditing by all of them to ensure compliance.
As we walk around one of the huge barns – a surprisingly pleasant place to be – Steve holds a chicken to show me its feet. It is the feet that are the main giveaway for poor welfare. Battery chickens tend to get blisters from sitting in their own waste, they also get blisters on their breasts. This chicken, however, was completely free of blemishes.
Chickens arrive at the farms one-day-old and remain there for the rest of their life – often more than 70 days for corn-fed birds; this allows them to grow free from chemical promoters, and to have as enjoyable a life as possible. I could tell you about the different breeds, about the startling cleanliness, the huge forest home for their turkeys, the constant quest to further improve their chickens’ welfare, the pride running through each department”¦”¦
Just look at the photos, the birds actually have more space than you think possible – TNP we salute you for raising the standards and for supplying Jamie’s Italian with an exceptional product.
It of course goes without saying that all Jamie's suppliers for each of his operations have exceptionally high welfare standards, and we will be exploring many more of them in the coming weeks and months.