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Award-winng Norfolk poultry business wins £5m deal to supply free-range chickens

16:19 13 March 2014

Mark Gorton of Traditional Norfolk Poultry where they have a new breed of chicken, the Norfolk Black Chicken. Photograph Simon Parker

Mark Gorton of Traditional Norfolk Poultry where they have a new breed of chicken, the Norfolk Black Chicken. Photograph Simon Parker

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An award-winning Norfolk poultry business has won a £5m contract to supply free-range chickens to a high street retailer.

Traditional Norfolk Poultry, which was a winner of the 2013 EDP’s business award for farming excellence, is increasing staff numbers by more than 25pc and creating 35 new jobs over the coming months.

Mark Gorton, who is a director of the specialist chicken and turkey business, started the business in 1987 with David Garner rearing a dozen bronze turkeys for the Christmas trade.

Now their business, which is based at Shropham, near Attleborough, and is a former winner of the Farmers Weekly Poultry Farmer of the Year Award, currently employs 130 staff.

Mr Gorton said that the first free-range chickens will be going into stores next month. “This will allow us to expand our farming base and to also recruit a number of new farmer growers to grow the birds for us,” he added.

“We’re recruiting another 35 staff in our processing factory and also on farms rearing the birds,” added Mr Gorton.

The business, which rears poultry including the range of specially-bred Norfolk Black Chickens for Sainsbury’s on a total of about 50 farms in Norfolk and Suffolk, is looking to take on more contract farmers. “There is also the potential for more contract farmers to grow for us,” said Mr Gorton, who said that most of their production was on light land farms within a radius of about 25 miles.

He said the immediate goal was to find new sites for rearing free-range chickens, which were typically kept in smaller flocks of up to 5,000 birds.

TNP also had a very successful Christmas campaign with sales up 35pc on the previous year. While last year was very difficult following a surge in poultry feed prices and the long, cold spring, the business was able to “knuckle down and weather the storm” and had flourished over the past two quarters, said Mr Gorton.

Since the launch of the Norfolk Black Chicken about 18 months ago, which was launched exclusively with Sainsbury’s sales have been rising continuously.

The next goal was to increase sales into the food service sector, and especially pubs, hotels and restaurants.

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