The end of Sommerlads’ Poultry. And a new beginning.

sommerlad chicken
As begets tradition, Kathryn Sommerlad emailed on Christmas Eve, four years to the day she first wrote to introduce her family business, Sommerlads’ Poultry, to me. The purpose of this email, sadly, was to shed details about the closure of the business.

But let’s start at the beginning.

In 2001 Michael and Kathryn Sommerlad began a poultry breeding project to develop slower growing meat chicken strains suited to Australian farming conditions. Michael incorporated genetic strains from the redundant Australian meat chicken, along with a diverse range of Australian heritage table poultry breeds. The Sommerlads aimed to effect positive welfare changes on a large scale by working with an Australian poultry integrator. To help fund this, they would work in the interim with best practice family farmers.

In late 2013 they released their chicks to be grown free range on pasture by these farmers. The next year the table chickens became commercially available. Quickly they gained notoriety. The chickens were hailed for their active foraging ability, well-proportioned bodies, strong legs and bones, and their ability to withstand heat. The taste? Because the chickens grow slower and live longer, the meat has a stronger flavour and better texture.

The Sommerlads were awarded the gong for Outstanding Innovation at the 2015 delicious. Produce Awards. Milking Yard Farm won the ‘From the paddock’ category, for the Sommerlad chicken they grew.

In the same year the Sommerlads moved to their new farm in Tenterfield, and expansion began.

Yet a few weeks ago, bad news came via my Instagram feed. Their business investor pulled out prematurely from their five year plan. The Sommerlads made attempts to save the business, but to no avail.

I was saddened for their heartache and stress.

But I couldn’t help but wonder, what will happen to the genes?

Dan isn’t driving day-olds.

Eggs are in, the next phase in the expansion of #aldertonsfarming

A post shared by Zac Jex-Blake (@aldertonsfarming) on

Zac isn’t incubating layers.

Oh my! Could it be…?

Kathryn confirmed my suspicions.

Some of the Sommerlad chicken farmers have purchased breeding stock and have taken them to their own farms. Michael will help them establish their flocks. It will take some time for the farmers to find their feet, yet eventually, they may be able to supply other farmers.

chicken australia

South Australia: Justin and Rita Porker, Kinmana Organics
Victoria: Bruce and Roz Burton, Milking Yard Farm
Western Australia: Zac Jex-Blake, Alderton’s Farming
New South Wales: Bryan and Kim Kiss, Grassland Poultry
Queensland: Daniel and Leanne Cordner, Bellasato Farm

Four years ago I congratulated the Sommerlads for starting a new, delicious chapter of Australian chicken history. You may think this has now ended.

Yet by dispersing the genes far and wide—this story has just begun.

Photo by Bellasato Farm

7 Responses to The end of Sommerlads’ Poultry. And a new beginning.

  1. Kathryn Sommerlad says:

    Thanks so much for your continual support Sharon, you’re a trooper x

  2. Keep us posted Michael & Kathryn and if we can be of any help know that the Mungalli Creek Dairy Farm family are great supporters.
    All the best
    Rob and Michelle

    1. Kathryn Sommerlad says:

      Thank you Rob and Michelle, really appreciated.

  3. Peter sinek says:

    For a seed to live it first has to fall to the ground and die, in order for it to live… Our natural eye is so limited in what it sees, may your legacy live on & on & on, blessing the world with much better chicken!

  4. Kathryn Sommerlad says:

    Thank you very much Peter, lovely of you to encourage us with that truth.

  5. Patricia bryant says:

    Where are the Somerlads now.. In Qld? If not breast meat based where are best ” cuts”.

    70 yrs ago my great aunt killed one if her pet chook every year for Xmas … As i remember, … white with red comb ? Leghorn. I have never tasted a Xmas chicken dinner the same, since those years. Could the flavour be related to quality of feed she gave them?

    What are Somerlad growers close to Sydney ? Rgds Pat

    1. Sharon says:

      Hi Patricia,

      Thanks for writing!

      Yes, the Sommerlads have moved to Queensland.

      The flavour that you remember would come from the feed, and age of the chicken. Chickens don’t taste like much until they are 12 weeks old – todays’s chicken are slaughtered as early as 35 days.

      Grasslands Poultry raise the Sommmerlad chickens and they have a few stockists in Sydney. They grow their chickens on pasture and move them regularly. So the chickens eat a diverse diet of bugs and grubs, grasses and leafy greens as well as supplementary feed… which contributes to the flavour.

      I hope you find a chook and cook it for Christmas! Try Feather and Bone, Shiralee, Hudson meats and Victor Churchill.

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