Where to Buy The Healthiest Chicken in the UK
Ever wondered why there is such a massive price difference between a non-organic, battery raised chicken and one that is free to roam on organic pastures?
It comes down to economies of scale. It’s far cheaper to stuff 1000s of chickens into a barn and feed them unnatural, cheap foods and pump them full of antibiotics to keep them alive long enough to produce some meat that can be sold on. By eating this type of chicken you end up ingesting an unhealthy product that can cause inflammation in your body and irritate the gut (especially if the chickens are fed soy). Not only that but the chickens do not live as long as organic, pastured chickens and are therefore not treated as well. The meat is also lower in the heart healthy omega 3 fat which pushes your ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids in the wrong direction, causing even more inflammation!
Organic chickens on the other had have to have access to outdoor pastures during the day where they are free to lead a more natural life and eat grass & insects. This leads to a much higher omega 3 content in the meat. However to comply with the “organic” label the chickens just need to have access to a pasture and there is no minimum time that they must be outside.
Whilst “organic” may mean they have access to these pastures during the day, at night they will be kept in barns for their safety. Once in the barn the chickens will be fed differently depending on the farm however unlike cattle chickens are omnivores and as such do better on a diet that includes animal flesh, organs & fat. Unfortunately I have not been able to find anywhere that feeds their chickens this way in the UK so the next best option would be a farm that does not provide feed in the outdoor pasture but feeds them cereal (preferably just seeds) that does not contain soya and only when indoors. The soya in chicken feed is at best just a filler and at worst can inhibit the absorption of nutrients by the chicken. Soya is just not a natural food for chickens. Due to the rising cost of chicken feed many do unfortunately contain soya.
The best we could find are farms that are biodynamic as these chickens are moved around different pastures which are rotated between crops & animals to enable a highly nutrient dense soil & therefore similarly nutrient dense grasses, etc. (remember “Crop Rotation” at school?). A biodynamic farm also strives to be self-sustaining so most of their animal feed is produced on the farm and therefore contains. Unfortunately even the biodynamic farms use bought-in feed that contains some soy.
These chickens are not cheap but you will be getting the best possible nutrition for your body (and the bones make amazing broth which is really good for you!).
We have been contacting various organic producers to find out what their chickens are fed and the list is below. Please note this list will grow as we get more responses.
Daylesford & Laverstoke Park are biodynamic farms so win hands down against the rest on the list below.
The List So Far
Whilst not strictly an organic farm their chickens are free range and are cheaper than organic so they could be a good choice if you cannot afford organic.
From their customer services team: “The fields the birds are reared in are not certified as organic, although no fertiliser has been put on them since I started 7 years ago. The birds are fed a cereal based diet (when inside).”
“The birds are let out during daylight hours. The cereals are not organic (we are a free range farm not organic), and one of the components in the diet is soya.”
“Its an organic cereal feed including soya, peas, sunflower seeds and rapeseed”
Daylesford are a Biodynamic farm so they aim to be as self sustaining as possible.
From their website: “Our chickens live significantly longer lives than even free-range chickens. As they forage, they make the most of our organic pastures, being an animal that naturally enjoys exploring. This all means their meat has time to develop its unique flavour.”
After further questioning we also received the following reply from their Customer Services team: “Our chickens have access to our organic pastures as soon as they are brave enough to venture outdoors. Each day the chicken coops are opened letting them explore as much as they like during daylight hours.
In regards to their feed our chickens have a constant supply of 100% organic layers pellets which, as it is organic, is free from all GM products. Sadly we cannot guarantee that the feed is soy free as it is an excellent source of protein. What we can guarantee is that our feed has been accredited by the Soil Association”
From their website: “Waitrose organic chickens are reared from a slower growing breed, free to roam in organic pastures and fed an organic cereal-based diet. At night the birds return to their houses as a precaution against predators. The organic farms are regularly and independently audited by Organic Farmers and Growers.”
From their Customer Support: “The cereal is available in their feeders all day. They can access this when indoors and outdoors. They also are free to roam and forage when outside. We are also working to find a sustainable source of non-soya animal feed in the UK.”
Laverstoke is another Biodynamic farm so again they are aim to be as self sustaining as possible.
From their website:
Firstly our chicken breeds are slow growing which gives the meat time to mature – our chickens will live more than three times as long as a factory produced bird. They are also free-range organic birds that wander at will and feed on herbs, clover, sweet grass and insects, just as they would in the wild, as well as an occasional treat of organic corn. We do not feed them any artificial supplements, nor add any antibiotic coated grain to their feed – these birds are as nature intended.
Green Pasture Farm
From their website:
“Pork and chicken cannot be grass fed, as they are not ruminants. Our pork and chicken is all 100% free range however, and allowed to forage for their natural diet.
The chickens receive supplemental feed which accounts for around 40% of their calorie intake, this is a mix of barley, wheat, corn and soy (all non GMO). Birds have evolved to eat grain, it is a natural part of their diet, and depriving them of it would be inhumane.”
Sainsbury’s So Organic
From Customer Service: “Our organic birds have continuous daytime access to the range once their feathers have developed at around 21 days of age and are fed a specially designed organic cereal based diet. The feed is given inside in feed pans within the house. It will contain roughly 20% organic soya”.
From their website: “Our organic chickens come from farms which are audited by one of the organic farm accreditation bodies, such as Soil Association or Organic Farmers and Growers. Organic birds are fed certified organic cereals and are provided with the same quality living conditions as our free range birds. All our organic birds are reared on British farms for at least 70 days, which contributes to their great flavour.”
You can also find other biodynamic farms and local outlets here.
If you are aware of other organic suppliers that you would like us to investigate then please leave a comment.