Animal welfare is rapidly becoming more important to consumers when selecting products and at Grassland Poultry it is the number one priority for all on-farm production processes.
Operating on a 1,500 hectare property 25 kilometers east of Wellington, Bryan and Kim Kiss of Grassland Poultry began a journey down the path of regenerative agriculture in the 1990s using holistic management.
Mainly operating a commercial breeding flock of Shorthorns, the implementation of chickens in 2015 began as another production system that fit the regenerative agriculture model.
It has since grown into a thriving business that has been able to maintain full capacity during the drought.
All stages, from hatching to processing, are done on the farm, with chickens kept in the same contemporary groups and in the same hut, which transforms and opens up as the chickens grow and grow. Are growing.
This allows the Kiss family to achieve maximum animal welfare, while standing out for its vertical integration.
Ms Kiss said selection for the Sommerlad Heritage breed came down to its ability to be outdoors and easily survive heat and cold, as well as being a strong and active forager.
“There are only one or two people raising these chickens, so we also have a high biosecurity risk,” Ms Kiss said.
Eggs are collected daily before being incubated to hatch. Once hated, they go to the brooder section under the gas heaters and that is their home and for the rest of their lives.
“Once the chicks start to care for themselves, the brood opens, the heat goes out and little pop holes open up never to be closed again, which means the birds have access to come and go whenever they want and at any time of the day,” Ms. Kiss said.
“What we do, few people do.
“There would be a handful of people in the country who raise their own meat chickens, hatch them, breed them, and then process them all on the farm.
“Before, we had to take them to a facility about two or three hours away to crate them and transport them. That just didn’t work for us.”
Although the chickens are free to roam, Ms Kiss said, although the different groups are free to mingle, they tend to return to the shelter in which they grew up.
The chickens have 24-hour access to forage in the grassy forests of Box Gum and a choice feeding system of crumble and whole grains. In the past this has led to problems with falcons which have been fought off with the purchase of Maremma dogs to help reduce losses.
As Pasture Raised on Open Fields (PROOF) certified breeders and focused on producing drug and chemical free chickens, Ms Kiss says they are not organic.
“It’s so hard to label yourself because so many people have different interpretations of what each thing is,” she said. “We’re trying more to educate people to ask questions about how their food is grown to at least know what they’re eating.”
Fresh produce is transported to feeders and butchers in Sydney and across the region to Dubbo, Mudgee, Wellington and Orange every four weeks. They also have a distributor who sends the product all over the country.
“My local and regional customers are moms and dads, they buy it because it tastes better, the food quality is better, it’s more nutrient dense, it doesn’t contain any chemicals or drugs,” said said Ms. Kiss.
“People are looking for this type of food and asking how much of the food we eat is from Australia and how much is from overseas.”
Grassland Poultry offers whole chickens, a selection of the various cuts and parts of poultry, fresh or smoked, and small items like ground meat, sausages, pies, bone broth and fat pots.
Miss Kiss said they had won state awards for delicious produce every year since 2018 and received gold medals at the national competition in 2020 and 2021, among a field of beef, pork, lamb and other types of poultry.
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