We recently visited Milking yard farm in Threntham, central Victoria. The farm is owned an operated by Bruce and Roz Burton.
At Hagen's we've been searching for a long time for a local partner that can provide poultry that can satisfy us ethically, environmentally, and of course our desire for full flavoured chicken. Milking Yard Farm is exactly the kind of producer we've been looking for.
Bruce and Roz established their poultry farm only recently, after life in the city they decided they wanted a change and to move back to the country.
We took a tour of their 50 Acre farm they have turned into a chicken sanctuary.
The first thing that makes this farm different to other "free range" chicken farms is the diversity in the chicken breeds. There are over a dozen of the old breed meat birds that have interbred to produce a wealth of diversity.
Conventional farms long ago started selecting fast growing birds that put on weight quickly (especially in their prized breast area). Now nearly all commercial chicken farms are growing the same inbred chickens to mass consumer markets.
We joke with the term "tastes like chicken" when we use it to describe how many things resemble the generic chicken flavour - as we know it so well. The truth isn't as funny - chicken has become literally the same bird, and exactly the same flavour.
If you're lucky enough to have enjoyed any of Milking Yard Farm's poultry in the past you'll know that it's different. These are birds that have enjoyed a life much longer than that of the usual. Bruce and Roz grow their birds fully, which takes time - over 100 days in most cases, as verses 45-60 days in most farms. Their birds feed on healthy natural chicken tucker - worms, grubs, insects, natural grains and seeds etc.
A tour around milking yard farm involves walking through open pasture that the shelters are cycled over to regenerate the land beneath. Through to light forest where the chooks can stay out of the heat and forage, eating both the food that falls from the trees above and comes from the debris beneath them.
Bruce and Ros have developed their farm to meet both organic and humane choice certification level. Which to them is not a commercial goal or end in itself but rather just an observation of their own farming principles and values. As Bruce puts it "profit for us is probably number 4 or 5 on the priority list".
So far their produce has been very well received, and makes appearances on some of the cities top restaurant menus.
After a lovely morning at Milking Yard Farm, we left knowing that our customers will love this produce as we do and that our relationship with our producers just got a little stronger.
We're looking forward to growing our offering and availability from Milking Yard farm in the coming months.