Home' Scoop : Scoop 50 Summer 2009 Contents 190 SCOOP SUMMER 2009
It's a simple equation really.
If you put in the effort, give them their
space and show some compassion, you'll
reap the rewards. And no, I'm not giving
out relationship advice, although a lesson
could be learnt here fellas.
I'm talking chicken -- free range chickens to
be precise, a business that profits from a bit of
extra TLC. It's the way Mt Barker Free Range
Chicken has done things since day dot, proving
humane and environmentally friendly production
methods equal a healthier, better-tasting chicken.
"The texture of the meat is more succulent and
pronounced," says the company's general manager
Mark Rintoul. "And that's because the birds get
lots of exercise and lead pretty stress-free lives.
They also take longer to grow, which pays off in
the overall flavour."
The story begins about 15 years ago, when Mt
Barker's Rignall family decided to farm free range
poultry on their property. The region proved ideal
for this kind of operation because of its cooler
climate and abundance of space.
Surprisingly, no other WA producers were do-
ing free range chicken at the time, and so out of a
"foodie's passion", the business grew.
"As demand increased, we started marketing the
chickens and meeting consumer requirements on
a larger scale," says Mark. "The family first started
out-selling the birds as a whole, then we took it to
the next level by cutting them up and packaging
them, which required a certain amount of exper-
tise to do properly."
They now have several contracted farms in the
Mt Barker region (two still run by the Rignalls)
and distribute throughout the state, occupying
five percent of the WA bird market. According to
Mark, the ethics of free range production challenge
the view that the cheapest meat on the shelf will be
the first to earn a spot in the shopping trolley.
"We don't believe in hurting an animal to make
fast money," he says. "And we don't believe in
sacrificing the quality of the meat by speeding up
"The slight premium you pay for the free range
variety is nothing when you consider how much
healthier and tastier the meat is."
So how does the life of a free range bird differ
from its conventionally farmed friends?
Well, most importantly, it has the luxury of
roaming around hectares of reticulated green pas-
tures all day, a far cry from the regular shed-raised
bird, which will never catch a ray of natural light.
"We have a minimum outdoor area that's five
There's no doubt about it: a
happy chook is a tasty chook.
West Australian company Mt
Barker Free Range Chicken has
put a little time and effort into
keeping their birds content and
are now watching their chickens
come home to roost. text nathan scolaro
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