Our day began with meeting Greg, one of the owners, and our guide on this family-owned farm. Bantry is unique in it's vertical integration, i.e. control of the whole supply chain, including their certified organic feed mill, grown on their land, which is the largest in Australia.
We got to witness the arrival of one-day-old chicks, warmly welcomed into a cozy shed at 32 degrees. I even got to hold one of these chicks! We chatted with the skilled Farm Manager, Hendrick about temperature control, and early nutrients for the new chicks. With 20 odd years experience, Hendrick takes great pride in the conditions at Bantry Organic.
Given the heat of the day, the older chickens retreated to their shed with sprinklers misting them gently to keep cool. They roam about their pasture, kept safe from from birds of prey and feral animals by a very, very large fencing. Able to forage for insects, and feed on organic grain.
Our final stop was to Bantry's production facility in Toowoomba, where we talked through the difference between Air-chilling and Water-chilling (also known as Spin-chilling), a step in processing for cooling chickens quickly after slaughter for safe consumption. Safe consumption does mean the application of hydrochloride solution, as required by law in Australia to eliminate the risk of salmonella. Let's talk through the differences, and how you can consume less hydrochloride...
Most processing of chicken will complete water-chilling, an ice-water bath with hydrochloride solution, where multiple chickens are dipped. Water absorption can be as high as 12% in this method, and cross-contamination can occur, due to the completion in batches. You consume more hydrochloride solution via the water-chilling method, as indicated by a whiter chicken.
The Air-chilling process at Bantry results in both a more flavoursome chicken, here's how. The hydrochloride solution, as mandated in law, is sprayed and washed off the chicken. It's run through a series of chambers where cold purified air is run over each bird individually, better for cross-contamination risk, and more water efficient. This process does take longer, but having a less water-dense chicken, literally means (apologies for the dot points):
While also at the facility, we meet Andy, a skilled chicken boner, able to process 120 birds in an hour, and Katrina, the CEO and sibling to Greg. We swapped stories about working in a sibling duo...we won't divulge those conversations here.
That's it, our trip to Bantry, a journey from farm - us - you