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Archive for the ‘Canterbury’ Category

In Christchurch, pre-earthquake, I visited Pete and Joy McLeod on their organic free range  poultry farm at West Melton.

Their home suffered structural damage in the September quake; this time the house was fine but their business may not survive. With restaurants like Jonny Schwass’s now in ruins and most of their other customers closed for business, the McLeods are desperately looking for customers outside Christchurch.

Moore Wilson Fresh in Wellington has come to the rescue; they’ve just started stocking Westwood Chicken’s free-range birds. I bought one this morning and, yes they’re expensive, but so is all free-range poultry and I can’t think of a better way to help Canterbury’s small producers right now. Besides, these birds taste great and I can vouch for the way they’re raised.

Westwood Organic Free Range Chickens

The one-day old chicks start out in converted shipping containers where they have food, water and plenty of space to run around. Their houses are heated and they have a transistor radio with music to keep them company. After a few days they’re encouraged to venture out into a netted run, then in the third week, when they’re sufficiently hardy, they’re moved into the fields.

At night they’re coaxed into their shadehouses, but during the day they prefer to peck around outside in the grass, or under the tree line where they can hide from the hawks – an  unfortunate reality for birds who free range.

Westwood Free Range Chicken House

I’m not sure how you’d know if they weren’t happy, but to me they seemed quite content.

Free-range doesn’t always mean what we’d like it to mean. Giving birds the ‘opportunity’ to go outside is not the same as encouraging them to do so. The McLeod’s really get this. When I visited the farm, their chickens were ranging so freely I found it hard to get a good photograph.

Of course, they aren’t the only producers whose business is suffering post-quake, their story is just one of many. Canterbury’s small farmers, growers and artisans really do need our support; we can help by supplying and buying their produce.

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