One of the UK farming industry’s largest sectors is poultry – the sector employs around 55,000 people in all aspects of the business and half of the meals with meat we eat involve chicken, turkey, duck or goose.

As a part of her on-going ‘Farm to Fork’ initiative, West Midlands MEP, Anthea McIntyre visited one of the region’s farmers raising chickens and then went on to a Hereford-based leading supplier of poultry products.

The first visit was to Stuart Perkins of Upper House Farm, Moreton-on-Lugg.  Stuart and his team raise 265,000 chickens approximately every 40 days. 

As they grow, the birds are free to roam and forage throughout the rearing house, eating and drinking as they wish. The birds are given a healthy, scientifically formulated diet, clean water, a comfortable temperature and fresh air in well lit surroundings, with good space for movement, all of which benefit their welfare.

Good stockmanship is fundamental. Trained personnel inspect the birds in the house every day, usually checking two or three times. They walk the entire length of the floor, up and down, inspecting the birds in all parts of the house, using their training and experience to pick out any birds which require attention.

Strict hygiene control (biosecurity) is a key part of all poultry farming with stringent procedures in place throughout the life of the flock to prevent or control any disease entering the flock (see photo 1 below).

Once at the optimum weight, the chickens are taken to Hereford-based Cargill Meats Europe, a major buyer of poultry products raised in the county and surrounding areas.

Cargill’s offer their clients both primary and further processing facilities and employ the latest techniques to ensure the quality and traceability of the food-stuffs they provide.

“Seeing each stage of the process, from the rearing through to processed meat ready for sale was fascinating and I am particularly grateful to John Reed, Agricultural Director of the British Poultry Council for arranging these two visits for me.

“Herefordshire’s diverse farming and food processing sectors are critically important and these visits once again demonstrated the care taken to ensure the highest welfare standards at every stage of the cycle.”  

(Photograph shows (l to r) John Reed (Agricultural Director of the British Poultry Council), Anthea McIntyre MEP and Ian Marshall (Production Manager, Cargill’s Hereford).)