How is your chicken reared and killed?

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Sheepdrove organic chickens featured on BBC Radio 4

How your organic chicken is reared is probably easier to talk about than how it dies. Farming Today and Farming Today This Week looked into the way chickens are slaughtered in the UK. Radio 4’s Charlotte Smith came to see the processing unit at Sheepdrove Organic Farm, and watched what happened.

She was actually rather impressed with the way that we deal with chickens. It’s a hands-on job with lots of care and attention. Charlotte asked some very important questions at Sheepdrove and staff had no problem giving straightforward answers.

Colin Nicholl, who manages the processing unit, pointed out that the birds, after being hung by their legs on shackles, are not struggling but calm. We have a ‘comfort plate’ – a long, smooth surface the chickens stroke against as they move along the line – which helps to calm them.

Charlotte said, “I’ve never been to somehwere like this before, and I was actually, honestly, very surprised when we came in because, once they are in the shackles and they’re upside down, most of them are so still, I thought these ones were already dead.”

Sheepdrove Organic Farm have begun a cleaner chicken revolution by developing new technology that means birds come out with less bacteria on their skin. We have a more hygienic alternative to the ‘scald tank’ used by everyone else – we have a hotbox! Read what Guardian writer Felicity Lawrence thinks…

Sheepdrove Organic Farm kills its organic free-range chickens on the farm so they have an extraordinarily short journey from the field of about 1 mile. We also process chckens for other organic and free-range growers – nevertheless, ours is a small-scale abattoir. Whereas Sheepdrove deal with about 8,000 birds each week, Radio 4 also looked at a place that kills 3 million chickens per week!

You can listen again to this BBC Radio 4 programme. Here is the BBC iplayer link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00cwn99 

Please explore our website www.sheepdrove.com where you can learn more about the farm animals at Sheepdrove and how we look after them. Our organic free-range chickens are at the forefront of good animal welfare, with Sheepdrove taking them beyond organic standards. These birds have special habitats, herbs and renewable energy provided!

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