The taste of chicken is on the lips of some of the country’s top chefs, and it came from a farm in Mount Vincent.
Kelly Eaton and Simon Carroll’s Little Hill Farm pasture-raised chicken has been named a state winner in the delicious. Produce Awards.
They were among 10 other state finalists in the paddock category of the competition and are now in the running to be named a national winner.
Two Hunter region chefs who use the chicken on their menus nominated the farm for the award.
“We were very proud to be a state winner, we weren’t expecting it,” Ms Eaton said.
“We are really happy about it, and we’ve been getting a lot of support.”
Samples for the national competition have been sent off and the judging panel has sampled the meat.
Now they are waiting to find out how their chicken compares with the rest of the produce around the country.
Ms Eaton said their secret was the diet their chickens consumed.
The main source of food is grass, and that is supplemented with a high quality feed and whole grains.
“People say it tastes like chicken from when they grew up,” she said.
“The taste is definitely to do with being outdoors and on the grass.”
Delicious editor-in-chief Kerrie McCallum said the standard of Australia produce was consistently high across all the categories.
“Each year our state judging panels across the country taste their way through hundreds of nominations,” she said.
The farm buys day old chicks that spend time under a heat lamp before they are big enough to go out into portable pens that Mr Carroll designed, and then out into an unrestricted area.
The chickens are locked up at night to protect them from foxes and to keep them warm in the cooler months.
Two maremma dogs also protect them.
“Ours are slower growing – a bird from the supermarket is five weeks old, we grow ours out to eight weeks,” Ms Eaton said.
“The chickens are only locked up at night, we shut the door to protect them from foxes and to keep them warm.
“Free range chickens are still in a shed and have access to the outdoors.
“Ours are outdoors and have access to the shed.”
The farm also stocks sommerlad heritage breed chicken, which a Tenterfield breeder created.
This type of chicken tastes different and is grown for 12 to 14 months. It is known for having a gamier flavour.
Ms Eaton takes the chicken to Maitland produce market each fortnight in The Levee. She also brings along a range of vegetables they grow on the farm and pasture-raised eggs produced by their laying hens.