Pastured and free range chicken directory

pastured free range chicken AustraliaA generation ago, Australians raised chickens for their eggs. Cockerals and spent layers were culled for their meat; thus it was an occasional treat.

A dedicated meat industry began in the 1950s. Two family enterprises took the lead and began vertical integration, contracting out the growing of broilers. They formed associations with the supermarkets—Steggles with Coles, and Ingham with Woolworths.

The price of chicken has remained relatively unchanged, mostly due to the industry’s high productivity. In 1975, it took 64 days to grow chickens to market weight; today a chicken can be ready to eat in 35. Efficiency is also achieved through scale and high stocking densities; a typical new farm will house 320 000 chickens, in eight sheds, of 40 000 each. Up to 19 birds will share one square metre of space. There are associated health issues: leg weakness and skeletal development problems, respiratory disease and skin damage.

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Just two corporations control 70 per cent of the 834 000 tonne-a-year chicken meat market: Ingham (owned by US-based TPG Capital) and Baiada (with brands Lilydale and Steggles). The majority of chicken is sold on supermarket shelves, now powerful gatekeepers to Australia’s food supply. Per capita consumption of poultry meat has soared from 10.5kg (1969–70) to 44.6kg (2012-13). One third of Australians eat chicken three or more times a week.

As eaters have grown more aware of their food and desired chickens free to range, industry saw an opportunity to grow. Their advertisements show a chicken on pasture and their descriptions say “free to roam“… but what’s the picture behind the scenes? Labeling is lax, feel-good marketing terms hide the ugly truth, and there is a myriad of certification.

The alternative? Eat better. Eat less. And source from a small farmer, if you can.

Listed below are farms with chickens that live most of their lives on pasture; they are either free to range or housed in mobile units. Nutrients from their manure fertilise the soil to encourage growth of pasture and other crops. They may be from a slower growing breed, a good ranger, which will taste better.

Look for these brands at farmers’ markets and local independent stores near you. Taste the difference and tell your friends!

NB: Hormones have not been used in the chicken meat industry for at least 40 years.


Support local farmers and eat delicious fresh food to boot! Check our other directories: milk, eggs, pork, fruit and vegetables, garlic, turkeys and chickens.


Contribute: Do you know a farm that should be here? Email info AT flavourcrusader DOT com for inclusion. Learn more about the directories.

NSW   VIC   ACT   QLD   SA   NT   WA   TAS

NSW
arden farmArden Farm, Orange
John and Kate Polain’s chickens, of the Faverolle breed, are free to roam chemical-free pastures. The farmers use planned grazing that includes moving stock continually to fresh pasture. This encourages deep-rooted perennial grasses to improve the soil and build soil carbon.


brokenback free rangeBrokenBack Free Range, Broke
Craig Holyman raises broilers, free to roam on a rotating grazing program in the heart of the Hunter Valley. Protected by a Maremma dog, the chickens forage, explore and dust bathe.


buena vistaBuena Vista Farm, Gerringong
Inspired by Joel Salatin, Fiona and Adam Walmsley began producing pastured poultry. The chickens arrive as day-olds, and after two or three weeks in a brooder room, they forage in fresh grass, protected by fox-proof electric fencing. They grow white commercial and Sommerlad breeds.


gaian poultry chickenBurrawong Gaian, Barraganyatti
Beth and Hayden McMillan raise chickens from day-olds. The chickens forage in the pasture with a diet supplemented by corn. The McMillans hand process, pack and distribute their chickens; they are chemical and antibiotic-free.


byron creek farmByron Creek Farm, Byron Bay
The farmers practice paddock rotation so the chickens are always on fresh pasture, scratching and foraging for bugs and insects.


carbeen pastured produceCarbeen Pastured Produce, Manildra
Rodger and Katherine’s farming practices are based on holistic farming to improve the health of the soil. Their mobile coop is moved daily to access fresh forage. The chickens are raised without the use of chemicals or antibiotics.


caroola farmCaroola Farm, Mulloon
Penny Kothe and Paul McKinnon raise free range poultry in a movable pen that follow cattle and sheep. They grow Light Sussex crosses, Australorps, Light Sussex, Sommerlad and Buff Sussex breeds; the meat birds are grown for up to 13 weeks.


Full Circle FarmFull Circle Farm, Jilliby
Shannon and Kylie Kelly rotate their chickens onto new pasture each day; the chickens free to eat grubs, bugs, and the like. The farmers process the chickens on-farm when they are between eight and twelve weeks old.


grassland poultryGrassland Poultry, Wellington
Bryan and Kim’s chickens are free to forage: they seek out seeds, greens, insects and micro-organisms in the soil. Alongside cattle and sheep, the chickens are rotated onto new pastures, returning nightly to their shelter and protected by their maremma dog. The husband and wife team are authorized growers of the Sommerlad breed.


hillsdale pasture farmHillside Pastured Farm, Wirrimah
Daniel and Christine Relyea, Sydney escapees, raise their chickens in a Salatin-style chookmobile. The chickens are grown for eight weeks guarded by two dogs, Jerry and Jemima.


hillside meatsHillside Meats, Eungai Creek
Colin and Lesley Meehan’s chickens live their lives outsie in the sun, on grass, as nature intended.


kurrafalls-farmKurrafalls Farm, Lidster
Lisa Darley and Quenten Jones free range their chickens in the olive grove, protected by electric netting and Maremma dogs. The chickens sleep in a custom-built A-frame caravan, which is moved weekly.


near river produce chickenLittle Hill Farm, Newcastle
Simon and Kelly’s commercial and Sommerlad chickens are free to forage for insects, graze on lush grass and dust bath at will. The wild treats are supplemented with quality grain mixes, mineral-rich seaweed meal, calcium, garlic and apple cider vinegar. The chickens are completely free ranging, protected by two Maremma dogs.


near river produce chickenNear River Produce, Hollisdale
Therese and Andrew Hearne’s chickens are placed in a ‘tractor’ that provides shelter and protection; it is moved onto fresh grass daily. The outdoor life and a more natural growth rate provides healthier and flavoursome chicken.


sommerladsSommerlads, Tenterfield
To grow delicious chicken, the Sommerlads developed new chicken genetics. They returned to heritage breeds and selected birds for characteristics like foraging behaviour, heat-resistance and strong legs, resulting in a bird growing up to 84 days and suited to slow cooking.


tathra placeTathra Place, Taralga
Luke and Pia Winder’s chickens are moved daily to fresh pasture. The chickens free range beneath trampoline sheds on pasture, under guard of a Maremma dog, surrounded by an electric fence.


VIC
the farmers larderThe Farmers’ Larder, Bonnie Doon
Stewart Laing watched supermarkets destroy the food economy of his village near Edinburgh. With wife Louise, they are fighting back, producing good tasting food for their local community. The small flock have plenty of space, living under fruit trees and scratching up worms and other bugs from the dirt under their feet.


hand to groundHand to Ground, Baynton
Alex and Emily Sims produce chicken seasonally, during Autumn and Spring. The birds live on fresh pasture and are moved daily in a Salatin-style chicken mobile. In addition to their wild forage, they are given a GM-free, locally milled wholegrain feed. They are processed between eight and nine weeks.


KOALLAH FARMKoallah Farm, Koallah
The chickens are raised on pasture; they eat grass and roots, and forage for bugs, worms, larvae and more. They are never locked up, even at night. Up to 1000 Cobb chickens run with a handful of Isa Brown hens in a 30 hectare paddock, a stocking rate of 35 hens per hectare, under the watchful eye of a Maremma.


life on the landLife On The Land, Tallarook
Steve Zezos’s chickens are free to scratch the earth, eat pasture and search for bugs outdoors; their supplementary grain ration is free from medication and GMOs. They chickens are housed in a shelter that is moved onto fresh pasture daily with an electric fence for extra protection.


milawa free range chickenMilawa Free Range, Ovens Valley
Russell Mickle’s chickens are grown to 12 weeks with shelters to protect from extreme temperature and predators. Their diet is supplemented by mixed grain and spring water. Buy from 15 Davison Place in South Yarra and at Melbourne farmers’ markets. Tip from @mindfulfoodie

milking yard farmMilking Yard Farm, East Trentham
Bruce and Roz Burton grow Sommerlad chickens, a slow growing breed, with a rich flavour and texture reminiscent of the Bresse and Label Rouge chickens from France. The birds thrive in small batches, roaming freely in the forest, grazing on a diet of wild grubs, seeds, grits, and organic feed.

mirboo pastured poultryMirboo Pastured Poultry, Mirboo North
Ilan Goldman’s chickens are enclosed in a ‘chook tractor’ that is moved daily onto fresh pasture, based on the methods of Joel Salatin. They grow white commercial and Sommerlad breeds. The feed is predominantly wheat, containing no antibiotics or pharmaceuticals.


Shady Oak Farm Free Range and Pastured PoultryShady Oak Farm Free Range and Pastured Poultry, Wesburn
House in Salatin-style chicken mobiles, Roberta Donovan’s chickens are free to forage on pasture.


taranaki farmTaranaki Farm, Woodend
Ben Falloon runs a multi-generational family farm, just north of Melbourne. The chickens are raised in movable pens for fresh pasture every day.


Timbarra FarmTimbarra Farm, Don Valley
Chris Brock’s chickens are raised in mobile pens that are moved daily to fresh pasture; the chickens are also free to roam within an area protected by electric netting. From two weeks old the birds are out on the paddocks, eating greens and insects and soaking up the sun.


yapunyah meadow grazed chickensYapunyah Meadow Grazed Chickens, Central Victoria
Ian and Mandy McClaren’s chickens are left to free roam and are rotated onto fresh grass each day. The farm is chemical-free and managed holistically to improve the health of the soil, plants and animals.


ACT
See NSW producers.

QLD
ayton farmAyton Farm, Rathdowney
The chickens are housed in broiler sheds, moved at least once a daily on to fresh ground. The chickens enjoy foraging for plants and insects, with their main source of food being organic chicken grower mash.


bellasato farmBellasato Farm, Braemeadows
Dan and Leanne Cornder’s chickens forage for grasses, legumes, insects, and eat GMO-free grain. The Sommerlad chickens free range within electro-netted areas. They are regularly moved to manage the soil and pasture, and are processed on-farm. Coming soon.


cgl beef chickensCGL Beef, Gympie
Warren and Karen McEwan raise their chickens outdoors. They are housed in a lightweight, floorless pen, that is moved daily onto fresh pasture. The chickens are free to scratch, hunt and dust bathe.


marlee may farmMarlee May Farm, Wolvi
Denise Maras keeps 50 chickens in paddocks of 500 square metres so each chicken has 10 square metres each, with room for them to move around and peck. The chickens are protected from flying predators with overhead netting.


melsted parkMelsted Park, Black Mountain
Anna and Michael Henbury’s chickens are raised in mobile shelters giving them access to fresh pasture; the shelters are moved every day. The chickens graze on the fresh grass, bugs and insects, and in return help regenerate their pastures.


peachester farmPeachester Farm, Peachester
Matt and Karen Schmidt move the mobile pens daily so the chickens always have fresh grass to eat, bugs to catch and new soil to scratch in. It protects the birds from predators, and gives them access unspoilt land while they rejuvenate the pasture.


PIGGLE MIDDLEPiggy in the Middle, Kilkivan
Cousins Dean and Mason Mayne, and their respective families, own two farms in Kilkivan. The chickens, following the pigs and sheep, scratch, aerate and fertilise the land. The chickens are housed at night to protect them from predators, and are guarded by Maremmas during the day.


symara chicken farmSymara Organic Farm, The Summit
Ray and Samantha Palmer grow produce for local eaters through their CSA; they have recently begun growing Sommerlad chickens.


walker farm foodsWalker Farm Foods, Cambroon
Kacey and George are committed to creating high welfare local food using regenerative agriculture practices. They grow both the conventional and Sommerlad chickens. Moved daily, they enjoy fresh air and grass, exercise, and sunshine.


Small free range farms: Bendele Farm and Moya Valley Poultry.

SA
barossa birdsBarossa Birds, Rosedale
Amy Tucker and Michael Hemphill aim to develop a poultry business in a sustainable manner, which means lower stocking rates and a limited number of chickens. The chickens are raised in mobile homes, moved daily for new foraging opportunities, and to provide protection from predators.


Inman Valley Poultry, Yankalilla
Got a photo? Send it to me at info AT flavourcrusader DOT com
Ashley and Christine Boyer free range their birds at densities less than one bird per square metre, and rotate them daily. The chemical-free chickens are grown out up to 90 days. Tip from @SimonBryantChef

nomadic farmsNomad Farms, Strathalbyn
Tom Bradman and Verity Slee’s chickens are housed in open pens that provide protection from predators, shelter from the elements, with access to natural foraging, fresh air and sunlight. The pens are moved daily onto fresh pasture, returning in 6-12 months, to regenerate the landscape.


tansley farmTansley Farm, Adelaide Hills
At the ecological Tansley farm, the chickens are moved at least once daily for fresh grass and insects; each section of pasture is allowed to rest for a full year before chickens are grazed there again. They produce broilers and roosters, which are ideal for braising.


Small free range farm: Greenslades

NT
Contribute: If you know a farm that should be here, email me at info AT flavourcrusader DOT com

WA
southampton homesteadSouthampton Homestead, Balingup
It’s all alive, it’s all intelligent, it’s all connected is the philosophy of Jeff and Michelle’s farm. The chickens are free to forage on diverse species of chemical-free grasses, rotated frequently, stimulating the pasture with low intensity manure and grazing. They grow Sommerlad breed chickens.


TAS
field forest farmField & Forest Farm, Poatina
Inspired by Joel Salatin’s Polyface farm, Derek, Anna, Cody and Poppy set out to replicate the model in Tasmania. They house their chickens in shelters so that they can be moved onto fresh pasture for the chickens whilst regenerating the land.


cc photo by Ed Townend.

Related Elsewhere
ACCC: Court orders chicken companies to pay $400,000 for ‘free to roam’ misleading claims, October 31, 2013
Sustainable Table: Free range egg and chicken guide
The Age: Ben Butler, Secrecy rules the roost, February 18, 2012
The Age: Ben Schneiders, Inside Baiada, dire picture of health, safety, November 21, 2011
ABC News: Karen Barlow, Poultry firm under review after man decapitated, Dec 3, 2010


23 Responses to Pastured and free range chicken directory

  1. jennifer czislowski says:

    Oh it is marvellous to read this growing list. We must have truth and integrity in advertizing.I thought lilydale were o.k until I saw them struggling to stand up properly in the ad .So relieved to find symphony farm at our local Sage Moruya market!!
    Let’s keep fighting for everyone’s best health by raising our food properly and exposing the misleaders

    1. Sharon says:

      Thanks Jennifer! Yes, keep on fighting and eating well :)

  2. […] been favouring my local butcher for supplying organic free, range birds and I encourage you to use this guide to find links to farms or butchers in your area who stock chickens raised sustainably (Milawa Free […]

  3. Geoff says:

    Yesterday we tried a Lilydale so called “free range” turkey, ordered specially from our butcher for an early Xmas dinner. Was surprised when removing the packaging to see it contained only 90% turkey meat. Even more surprised to find the thigh meat barely darker than the breast meat when carving. This morning tried a drumstick – must be an incredible breed of turkey not to develop any sinews or darker meat in the drumstick!!
    What a con!!

    1. Sharon says:

      Hi Geoff,
      I’m sorry to hear about your turkey. It’s incredibly disappointing when our efforts to do the best thing by the bird is foiled by industry. Especially at Christmas!

      90% meat is bogus. I assume the butcher ordered the “marinated” turkey – that’s an awful lot of water you’re paying for.

      And yes, sounds like the turkey’s leggies haven’t done much/any work. Tell your butcher you’re not sure Lilydale is actually free-range for a start. Then fill out this five minute form to tell the ACCC. They are particularly interested in credence claims (e.g. free-range) so your complaint will likely be acted upon.

      I hope you found my free-range turkey directory. Visit again next year (best to order late October) and have a real free-range Christmas!
      Sharon

  4. Keltia says:

    Great post, the figures are remarkable aren’t they.
    The biggest issue I have with everything is finding that balance between living within the real realms of a budgeted meat eating family, and living a true organic lifestyle. When it comes down to budgeting for the week I would spend more on chicken meat solely because I can do more with a chicken. I have a family of four, three teenage age and upwards males. Making meals go further is always a must for me.

    I was checking one of the website, yes it ticked the boxes, great farming techniques, local woohoo, than I came to the price, what it costs for one kg of chicken breasts you can buy nearly 2.5kg in the supermarket. Literally your heart falls, however much I would like to go and buy chickens that are free range organic etc from my local producer I can’t. The best I can do is buy through the supermarkets or when on special at the chicken shop free range chicken. I am just one person how many others would be in the same boat.

    Thanks again for another great post….

    1. Sharon says:

      Eeeeek! Teenage boys are ravenous creatures! You’re doing your best and it’s great that you’re mindful!

      Australians in general eat too much meat. Perhaps see if you can cut down on the quantity, rather than the quality. This page has more details and protein alternatives.

      Try cooking Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Asian dishes where meat is used as a flavouring, rather than the centre of the plate. We need to eat more vegetables, not meat!

      Lastly, if you’re buying chicken pieces rather than a whole chicken, this is where you can make a great saving as you’re paying (through the nose) for this convenience. Check out my Home Economics channel to see how to break down a chook.

      1. penny says:

        B=Chicken breasts are the most expensive. If you are feeding teenagers then you will get much more food for your dollar if you feed them lamb (you can get awesome sausages and burgers from pastured meats. When I was a kid my grandma would “get a fowl” for special occasions only. That was just about the time that the intensive faring came in. yuk.

  5. Jude mayall says:

    Congratulations on telling everyone about free range v the other! I grew up in the country where dad would cut the head off one of our chooks for dinner, they used to scratch around the trees etc, and have a great time, tasted amazing, in the city we are dependant on truthful marketing which doesn’t always happen. If you respect your body then you have to respect what you eat and that comes down to respecting all living creatures and how they are looked after in life and humanely killed for eating. It’s better to spend some time finding a local butcher or store that you can trust and then supporting them. Agree change your cooking patterns to include more veg, rice etc and use of herbs, spices, it can be done.

    1. Sharon says:

      What a great upbringing! Yes, thankfully the ACCC are taking action too. Agree a little upfront time to finding out where to buy is all that’s needed. These farms are multiplying so soon, there will be more good chicken and so easier to buy.

      Thanks for the visit Jude!
      Sharon

  6. Angry of Surry Hills says:

    I have been buying Lilydale chickens for years, because it was convenient and they seemed reasonable – not great, but not bad – and it was only recently, moving back to Sydney, that I recalled my butcher saying: “I don’t know what they are feeding these birds, but they sure are really big, and consistently so, for birds that are supposedly wandering at random around the bush…”.
    Not saying they are fibbing, but it is a fair question being posed. Standardisation of course is important for a business, but boy there are an awful lo of these chooks being produced out of a small place called Lilydale…
    AoSH

    1. Sharon says:

      The chickens are mainly huge because they are bred to grow fast, ready for the plate in 35 days. They hoover up their high protein feed, indoors. They do have access to outside, wonder how many make it out there?

      Once you find good food, you realise that standardization generally means ‘consistently mediocre’… it’s a business, but also great food comes from farms, not factories.

      Yeah Lilydale is a brand of Baiada’s, one of the Big Two in Australian meat chickens. Don’t be Angry, find good food! Heaps in and near the Sluz. Heaps!

  7. Hi ya’all,
    Well “Free Range” is a term perverted by the big farm corporations..u know who :) Anyhow if u hv a commercial shed of 42000 chooks and put doors in it to let chickens out…u too r free range! Please note their is a fence within 60 meters of the huge shed. But legally this can be called free range. So grasshopper not all that glitters is gold. Peace n mungbeans…

    1. Sharon says:

      Peace n mungbeans! C’mon Craig, make that website happen!

  8. Rebecca says:

    Hi im trying to find a wholesale commercial supply of freerange chicken for a cafe on the Gold Coast if anyone can make a recommendation it would be great.

    Thanks
    Rebecca

  9. […] A 2011 directory of national small independent farms […]

  10. don opie says:

    Just discovered these major brand ” free range ” are fed ground up chicken meat … again a worry, feeling hijacked by powerful monster “Woololes ” that smashes any opposition that dares to remain in business .

  11. Brent burns says:

    Hey guys awsome to see many conscious farmers, I contacted lilydale to find out if any of there farms use GMO grains to feed their chickens, after coping a ear bashing by what I would say was there scientists after another attempt to find out they came clean and admitted there farms do use GMOs. Could you tell me as a consumer do they have to inform us of there gmo use thanks

    1. Sharon Lee says:

      Hi Brent,
      When GMO is used in livestock feed, the company does not have to label it.

      On Lilydale’s website, they do however explain that they use feed which contains GMO ingredients.

      “Currently we are unable to source all non-GM ingredients for Lilydale feed due to a range of factors including the source and seasonal nature of some crops used in components of the feed.”

      If this is important to you, then seek certified organic chicken, or farmers that use GM-free feed.

  12. Matt D says:

    this all sounds great, but reality is we live in an ever growing population and your 1 bird per sqm is not going to feed that!!!
    chicken meat is the cheapest form of protein and with reduced land for farming an ever increasing threat, the feed/grains that are derived from the land is going to be prioritised to the animals that utilise it best, that being fish on top of the list and poultry second!
    So being able to get chicken breast for $7/kg from your local butcher is a luxury we should be grateful for, grateful that these big companies like inghams and steggles put so much money and effort into improving the genetics of the birds to keep our cost of eating such a luxury meat so low. If they didn’t we would be paying upwards of $17/kg for the same product as we do with red meats and then im pretty sure everyone would be complaining about that!! wake up Australia

    1. Sharon says:

      Yes the population will rise, and yes, resources, of all kinds, will be depleted.

      But did you know that Australians over-consume protein? There is simply no need, for reasons of health, to eat the vast amount of animal-based ‘protein’ that we do.

      We are the largest meat eaters of the world title (neck and neck with the United States).

      By the way, protein is available in plant-based food, for instance in pulses and beans. Australians do not eat the recommended amount of vegetables; increasing consumption of plant food will help prevent many diseases, like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

      You are right that meat is a luxury. That’s how people in emerging economies still view chickens. They eat significantly less meat, but from chickens with better genetics, grown in less intensive situations. Guess what? It tastes better!

      Pay a little more, eat a little less. Taste the difference.

      p.s: Steggles and Inghams don’t ‘improve’ genetics. Broilers (the Ross and Cobb) come from international agribusinesses Aviagen and Cobb-Vantress, Inc.

  13. Nae says:

    I used to occasionally buy lilydale chickens thinking they were genuinely free-range until one day my hubby said ‘what do they feed these chickens, look at the size of this drumstick’ It was the size of a turkey drumstick and just didn’t taste good. I now buy Inglewood chicken (in QLD) and their chickens are much smaller and waaaaay better tasting. Just wondering why they aren’t on the above list? I know they are probably a large/commercial chicken farm but their chickens taste good and I haven’t heard anything negative about them.

    1. Sharon says:

      Hi there Nae,

      Chicken size is mostly determined by genetics (commercial meat birds are fast growers due to breeding), but also feed, exercise (or lack of) and time.

      Inglewood grow the same breed of chicken as everyone else. Yet the chickens would have more freedom to roam, and live a longer life. In addition, Inglewood chickens are air chilled, not submerged in a water bath like most, which means the flavour is not diluted.

      Why haven’t I listed them? I’d like people to understand what they are eating, and connect them to small regenerative farmers nearby, so that these farmers prosper and multiply. Inglewood are a little too large, and I have to draw a line somewhere, because of limited time. They are also certified organic, so for most people, that is enough; people are assured at the shop and do not feel the need to research the company nor their practices online.

      Anyway, I’m glad you tasted the difference, and found a chicken that meets your needs!

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