From paddock to plate: Inglewood Chicken

A sponsored post for Inglewood Farms

Note: this post discusses the killing of birds for meat consumption. If you think it might make you feel a little queasy or uneasy, it’s probably best to tune into the blog again tomorrow.

In my last post for Inglewood I showed you guys a bit of the behind the scenes of the farm and their processes for raising certified organic & free range birds. Again, these posts are merely my version of events, not the only way, or the right way – it’s up to people to make their own decisions armed with information.

One of the biggest eye openers for me in this whole process of education on poultry farming was the processing of the birds. I had literally NO idea what happened to chickens other than they were killed and somehow plucked and butchered into the chicken pieces or breasts that I see and buy at the supermarket. I didn’t know just how many chickens are treated, and many of the free range ones I have been buying up until now, which I thought was doing the right thing by.

Every chicken that you see in the supermarket that is available for purchase has been through a number of steps before it gets there. I mean there’s the whole alive chicken thing, and then the whole pink pieces of clean flesh in the packet thing. Der Beth. By law in Australia, chickens once killed, plucked and had all the insides removed need their temperatures bought down, and treated with chlorine to kill off any bacteria for the consumer. Did you know (because I certainly did NOT) that when most chemical free or free range chicken are up to this stage the birds are placed into a huge chlorine ice slush? The birds are twisted through this slushie for 3 minutes to bring their core body temperature down ready for bagging or butchering. In this process, the birds are legally allowed to take in up to 9% of the chlorine water from that slushie. In the processing plants, free range birds are processed in the same slushie baths as the cheaper, non chemical birds, they are just done first, at the start of the day. So in effect, the whole process takes just 3 minutes, however the birds can have up to 9% chlorine water in them as well.

I was lucky enough to see some of the background processes at Inglewood when we visited. The birds are killed, plucked and have all their insides removed in much the same way, although this is done on site, at the farm itself. The birds are then sprayed with the absolute minimum amount of chlorine required by Australian law and left in huge cool rooms to dry over the process of 6 hours. It is then that the birds are ready for butchering and bagging for the consumer.

So we have:
3 minutes. Chlorine ice bath. 9% chlorine absorbed by the birds.
And:
Minimum legal amount of chlorine sprayed onto the bird. 6 hours drying time.

If you buy a regular free range bird and freeze it, and take an Inglewood bird and freeze it, then defrost them both, you’ll see just how much liquid the regular birds take on. It never even occurred to me exactly what that liquid was in my bottom of my packet of chicken. It never even occurred to me that if I was boiling the carcass for stock after roasting the bird that the chlorine would be leeching out into the stock?

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Here are some of the birds that have been dried in the cool room for 6 hours, ready for bagging or butchering (which is done by hand) by workers in the processing plant.

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An organic bird will look, smell and of course taste different to regular birds we have been used to eating. Inglewood often get calls from consumers saying that something must be wrong with their bird. It smells. And they do, they smell. LIKE CHICKEN. Fancy that! They are a leaner bird and require a slower roast than normal birds so they don’t dry out. And the end result is a bird that tastes, well, like chicken. And it’s true. They do. I’ve cooked them myself for my family.

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Australians will rarely buy a whole bird – it’s the cuts that most are concerned with for their convenience and ease of cooking for a nightly meal. Inglewood butcher and package all of their birds for sale in Coles (under their own Inglewood brand) and for Woolworths under the Woolworths macro (purple) label. You can get chicken breasts, thighs, wings and drumsticks. And they have a new range of pre-packaged and marinated pieces in organic marinades as well.

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So let’s take a look at the cost of the birds and try to work out exactly why you are paying up to $10 more per bird at the checkout.

There’s the cost that the farmer wears in having less animals, and more space. There’s the organic feed that costs more, and the local straw that the birds have in the bottom of their sheds. The cost of organic feed can fluctuate enormously, and for no apparent reason at all, and the farmer has to wear that cost, in order for their birds to remain on the supermarket shelves. The birds are alive for longer, and with no chemicals or hormones being used, time is a cost. There’s the extra time in processing the birds – it could take 3 minutes in the chlorine slush, but they prefer to use a longer method with a better outcome for the consumer. That motto of “What’s best for the bird and what’s best for the customer” means a premium product and the end outcome is a more expensive product.

But how does that rate against other products available in the market?

Prices taken early March 2013
Poultry
Skin off Inglewood breast fillet is $29.00/kg (certified organic)
Skin off breast Lilydale breast fillet $18.29/kg
Luv-a-Duck duck breast fillet $37.00/kg

Beef
King Island Eye fillet steak $47.99kg
King Island Scotch fillet steak $37.00kg

Lamb
Coles Lamb rack roast $34.99/kg
Coles Lamb cutlets $32.00/kg

Fish
Coles Salmon fillet $39.95/kg
Coles Barramundi fillet $43.99/kg

Pork
Otway Pork cutlets $26.00/kg
Otway Pork fillets $36.00/kg

Comparing a certified organic product with trusted processes and outcomes, I think it’s not too bad for the premium product you are getting. Sure, it’s more expensive than other chicken products on the shelves, but you have to remind yourself of the bird’s life and processing in the equation as well. That was always the step missing in my equation, and one that I can’t overlook any more. I also can’t help but think of the size of a bird and it’s processing. If I am eating lamb or beef, that is not organic, the size of the beast determines the percentage of chemicals in the animal. A bird, being the size that it is, would naturally have a higher ratio of chemicals in it. I had never thought of that before now.

So what does all of this mean for me? Well, I can safely say that I won’t buy non organic chicken anymore. I’ve made that decision in my head, and sure, even though I am just 2 months into it, I’ve stuck to it. I will pay the extra cost, and if I can’t get it, we won’t have it. I want to try and eat less meat on a whole as a family. We eat too much, and we have too big a serving when we do eat it. I want to try and stretch the animal to last more than one meal – a roast chicken will feed dinner, can be used for sandwiches or shredded into a soup or pie and then I will use the carcass for stock. That’s 3 or 4 different meals out of a $25+ bird. That justifies the price for me. I want to try and educate myself more on what I eat generally – actually think about where it has come from, rather than just avoiding thinking about something that can be messy, or confronting. I want my girls to know where food comes from. I want to support farmers, where I can, in their farming methods, especially those working hard to think of the animal’s welfare.

I’m not sure what it will all mean for you…maybe nothing more, but if it’s at least given you an insight into something you previously had no knowledge about before, then I’m happy.

Inglewood birds can be purchased from Coles, Harris Farm, Bi-lo and Thomas Dux under their own label, and through Woolworths under the Macro label (purple label) however you will have to check that the processor number on the label is 4528P.

More questions and information can be found on there website here.

And the video that Rob made on the farm and our visit can be found here:

Comments

  1. michelle barrington says

    I had no idea about the chlorine process for chicken in Australia. Organic or not they are all absorbing chlorine. This post was an eye opener. I think I won’t be using left over to make stock anymore.

    • Michelle, I hadn’t thought about the carcass for stock AT ALL until I had this meeting and learnt this stuff. NO idea. Glad my eyes are slowly opening up to this stuff.

    • The article clearly says the Organic produce is NOT put into or spray with Chlorine. It is the normal and free range that are. You might want to read the article again lol.

  2. Alli @ ducks on the dam says

    Thanks Beth for telling us what you have learnt. Thank-you also for pointing out that the underlying point that you are trying to make is to THINK about the food (especially the meat) that we are eating. Whether we choose to buy the Inglewood chickens or not, I don’t think that is what the main point is here. I don’t buy chicken from the supermarket. I buy it at a farmers’ market when I can (chemical free, free range, small processor) and I have been assured by the farmer (the person who I speak to when I purchase it) that the life has been a good one and that the processes to get it to me are also ones that I am happy with. Same goes with the beef, lamb and pork that we eat. None of the meat that we eat is certified organic but I am happy with the information that I have received from the person who sold it to me. Good luck in your #realfood quest….. I look forward to hearing more about it (as I am sure that we will).

  3. Kim Moussa says

    Thanks for posting this. Obviously, we all have no idea about our chickens. I certainly do try to buy organic when I can but it can get expensive. I’ll be buying less chemically processed from now on.

  4. Jan Bishop says

    I buy Macro products too. Had a whole chook before your first post and it it was very good indeed and have had pieces as well. I love their organic milk which froths beautifully for coffee, much better than Pura organic. MAcro peanut butter is much nicer than other brands and has NO sugar. Who needs sugar in peanut butter.

    Chlorine? Yes, I thought most people knew about that. It’s been a requirement for a long time, years and years. I do wash carcases and if it’s sprayed on, hopefully the bones have not absorbed much. Ordinary tap water has chlorine in it, sometimes it can be smelt.

    • I’m embarrassed to admit I had NO idea about the chlorine. This whole process has been such an eye opener for me Jan. Thanks for the tips on the milk & PB.

      • one thing to note is that chlorine breaks down pretty quickly (otherwise swimming pools wouldn’t need to keep topping up the chemicals in there), particularly by vaporisation or sunlight. So I wouldn’t be worried about eating chlorine too much. it is also found in kitchen salt.. I’m more bothered by the artificial boosting of weight by adding water, I’m sure in the UK they can also inject saline into chicken and ‘tumble’ it in a giant tumbler so it takes on lots of water. Yuck!

        agree with all the other points though!

  5. MotherDownUnder says

    Good to know that Woolies sells them under the Macro label.
    I am shuddering thinking of all that chlorinated chicken juice…and those little chicken juice pads they always put under the meat.

    I have been learning so much about chickens lately.
    We just adopted two ex-battery hens… Toddler C has named them Rock and Stick.
    Anyway, the poor ladies are in rough shape…their beaks have been burnt, they are missing most of their feathers. But they are still so friendly and have already become part of the family. I can’t wait for them to be fat and feathered and laying lots of eggs!

  6. I would’ve said you pay up to $10 more at the checkout because Coles and Woolies are a pack of greedy pigs…..but that’s just me 😉 Apparently if you buy Chemical Free chicken it has been treated with UV sanitised water and has no chlorine treatment at all.

  7. Just wanted to say I found that really interesting. Thanks for the article and pics. Interesting to see the processes that go on before it arrives on our plates. Definitely makes me want to know more about the foods we’re eating.

  8. Thanks beth, I’ve always wondered where those Macro birds came from. When I buy a whole organic bird I roast it for dinner but do loads of veg so that there is some left over. I shred the left over meat, make a stock out of the bones and make a risotto. I love chicken, spinach and macadamia or chicken, roast pumpkin and fetta

    • I think there is another producer of the Macro birds too – just check for that number in the post on them and you’ll know they are Inglewood ones. Making the bird last is crucial to the price isn’t it?

  9. Milina Opsenica says

    This has been a very enlightening journey, and thank you for passing this on. I had no idea about the chlorine either. Naive? Maybe. Anyway, after much searching and asking, I’ve just this weekend found that Inglewood is now available at a (one!) local Coles, and I’m stoked about it! I’ve also made note of the product number for the Macro chickens. Thank you Beth x

  10. Hey thanks so much for that It has been a big concern for me , I am now only buying organic chicken and meat .

  11. Are your’e chickens HALAL ?

  12. Little one says

    Are they using chlorine or chloramine?

  13. No hormones are used in meat chickens in Australia they are banned, Have been for decades, Chlorine breaks down quite fast, very fast when exposed to heat.

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