Whilst you ponder your ongoing position when January draws to a close, we would like to offer you some reasons to include Soanes Chicken in your menu plans for the rest of the year. This advice is particularly timely in light of the Government’s recent recommendation that we cut red meat and dairy consumption by 20%.
Mintel recently published the results of a survey into why people chose to become vegan, vegetarian or otherwise review their protein diet choice. This listed the following concerns / reasons in order
Those reducing meat Those cutting out meat
Health Animal welfare
Weight management Environment
Animal welfare Health
Antibiotics The use of antibiotics
Taste Weight management
Here are a few reasons that you might like to consider when it comes to including chicken in your diet
Health / Weight
Chicken is recognised to be one of the healthiest meat proteins, with less fat than meat derived from four legged animals. In addition, the Soanes supply chain is very secure. We sell chickens grown by us or two of our neighbouring farmers so we know everything about what they have eaten and that no one has interfered with the product, so we have ultimate traceability. Because we are a small, family owned business, we also know personally all of the people involved in rearing, preparing, packaging and delivering our chicken.
A balanced diet should include protein and low fat. Chicken delivers just that.
The Soanes Poultry team is very passionate about animal welfare and we adopt many practices that exceed both legislation and industry standards. We are Red Tractor approved achieving zero non-conformances at our last audit. But to us Red Tractor approval is just the base line, just the starting point. We have a policy that we call Red Tractor +1 (or 2 or 3) – whatever Red Tractor requires, we will always seek to be better. Our newest farm incorporates ventilation, feed and water quality control systems that exceed requirements and bring benefit to the birds and their environment. Our birds had windows before it was a requirement. Perches and “agri toys” to stimulate interaction among the birds were in place before it was a prerequisite of Red Tractor.
We have adopted a system to assess the welfare outcomes for birds based on their behaviour that was developed by AssureWel; a collaboration between the RSPCA, Soil Association and Bristol University School of Animal Science. As far as we are aware, we were the first non-organic, broiler chicken producer to do so. The data generated is used to guide continuous improvement in our husbandry standards.
We are now into our fifth trial flock of birds grown to a lower stocking density of 30kg as specified by the RSPCA higher welfare standard. These trials are going well and we hope to launch a higher welfare chicken in the very near future.
We can also offer our customers Free Range chicken that we have been processing for over 10 years.
Environmental footprint studies have shown that chicken production has one of the least impacts on the environment of all animal protein industries. The modern broiler chicken converts food to body mass extremely efficiently, occupies less land and emits the lowest level of CO2 per kg of meat produced. We cannot escape the fact that the protein in the diet of a chicken is soya which is imported from the Americas. In particular, soya imported from Brazil has resulted in the loss of many a square mile of rain forest. Soanes Poultry has signed up to buy soya from sources that do not include land from newly cut rain forest.
The broader industry is working on alternative protein sources including insects and algae. None of these are yet commercially available but Soanes Poultry is following developments in this science closely and will be an early adopter.
Closer to home, Soanes Poultry has invested heavily in renewable and energy saving technologies with wind turbines, biomass boilers, solar panel arrays and heat recovery systems included in our environmental audit. The latest biomass boiler, commissioned in November 2019, is used to heat the chicken sheds on our newest farm and uses straw from the fields surrounding the farm – I doubt whether any of the suppliers to the big retailers can claim the same!
Likewise, the big producers transport their chickens hundreds of miles across the country to the processing plants, whereas the average journey for our chickens is less than 30 minutes. Better for the chickens and better for the environment.
We are not clear on what the taste concerns are around meat in general and are guessing that it is just personal taste. Soanes chickens are regularly praised by consumers for “tasting like chicken used to” and we hold eight Great Taste awards from the Guild of Fine Foods across our range of chicken products. The birds’ diet includes wheat grown on the chalk lands of the Yorkshire Wolds by us and our neighbouring farmers and we like to think it is this unique feature that makes our chickens taste so good.
As the concern about resistance to antibiotics became clear over the last decade, we have adopted a tough stance on antibiotic use. Our policy is termed “Target Zero Antibiotics” which describes our efforts to achieve zero antibiotics usage, but we would never allow the chickens to suffer if they were ill. Our focus has been to improve gut health and arm the birds with the right gut flora to see off infections. The birds receive pre and probiotics as part of the gut health plan and we work with our feed supplier to identify feed supplements that assist this process.
Our antibiotic usage has fallen by over 85% in the last three years as these polices have come to fruition and we have learned more about what the birds need to remain healthy. We are proud to state that our usage is well below the national average for the chicken sector.
MD, Soanes Poultry