Robert Morris of the acclaimed St Bride’s poultrynear Strathaven is looking to expand his business – thanks to a surge in demand for his high-welfare, slow-reared, free-range chickens, guinea fowl, ducks and turkey.
“Demand has been fantastic and I’m lucky enough to be supplying some top chefs including Andrew Fairlie, Tom Kitchin and in London Claude Bosi at Hibiscus, Bibendum, John Williams at the Ritz, Brett Graham at the Ledbury, and the Fat Duck,” he says.
But now, to ensure consistency, he want to raise around £30,000 to erect his own on-farm bird slaughterhouse and to improve the accommodation for the birds while young.
Morris buys chicks at one day old and pampers them with a warm, dry home until they’re six to eight weeks old before they go outside. The challenge for him, compared to other poultry farmers south of the Border, is (of course) the Scottish weather.
Very few in the UK, and even fewer in Scotland, are producing this type of poultry. St Brides birds are slow-grown for a minimum of 15 to 20 weeks, compared to other farms, which slaughter their birds at around five weeks old. They are also fed less protein, so they get to forage for bugs, grass, plants, and wild flowers. Their 100% grain feed consists of local wheat, barley and oats.
In addition, St Brides birds are dry-plucked by hand in the traditional way, similar to the prized Poulet de Bresse. Then they’re game hung (that is, with their innards in) for a minimum of 24 hours or four days.
This high welfare process intensifies the flavour and texture of the meat, and makes it pretty unique. That’s why some chefs buy the birds whole, in line with the “beak to feet” ethos.
St Brides only produce around 100 birds a week – compared to the hundreds of thousands that are intensively produced in sheds by the large commercial brands.
All of which costs time and money. I wish him luck. Meantime, here’s some recommended viewing: https://vimeo.com/206027460?ref=em-share