Norfolk’s champion farmers welcomed hundreds of visitors to see how thousands of birds are produced for the table.

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Nigel Joice and his son, Patrick, threw open the doors to their poultry enterprise as part of the Open Farm Sunday initiative. And to their delight, more than 800 visitors spent a day at Uphouse Farm, South Raynham, near Fakenham.

It was the first time in the country that a specialist unit had invited people to see all aspects of the farm and how birds were reared for the table.

Mr Joice, said: “This was a very big step for us to take. Opening up your farm is a nerve-wracking experience and for us, as poultry farmers, it was a first.

“We had a great day and we thoroughly enjoyed talking to the visitors, explaining what happens on our farm and helping everyone understand a bit more about what it takes to get chicken to the table.”

His son, added: “We believe there are a number of myths about chicken farming, not least how the birds are kept and looked after. The reality is very different from the perception and that’s why we decided to open our doors.

“My father and I – and our team here – are all really proud of the way we rear chickens. It is a 24-7 job and we are all really passionate about it.

“I was really pleased by the turn-out we had and the fantastic feedback received on the day about what we do and what we were trying to achieve,” he added.

Their team of farm staff had even fitted clear plastic sides to two purpose-built buildings, each designed to house about 45,000 chickens.

Inside the two barns, which had additional windows for visitors installed, were three-day-old chicks and three-week-old birds.

The farm, which is strong supporter of the Red Tractor farm assurance, also provides perches, bales and pecking objects for the birds.

The Joice family produce about six million chickens a year for Morrisons, which is keen to source as much of its meat from farms in Britain.

There was a range of other attractions and a chance to see how the business has reduced its carbon footprint by installing a 500Kw biomass burner last year, which is fuelled by chicken manure and wood chip to heat the farm’s 16 poultry buildings.

Mr Joice, who won the 2011 Farmers Weekly Poultry Farmer of the Year award, added: “We decided to open the farm to enhance the knowledge of the public to what we’re doing. We’re very proud of what we do here and we felt the only way to get the message out was to open the doors and let people in to make their own minds up.”

Visitors were shown the latest computer-controlled systems, which monitors the environment for the growing birds and ensures that the growing flocks are kept at the optimum temperature, humidity and have the required feed and water.

The farm also produces 30,750 tonnes of feed a year from the 280 acres, which also helps to reduce the carbon footprint.

One visitor, said: “I was surprised at the transparency and openness of the farm.

“It seems like an extremely well thought out project – well managed, well designed.”

Mr Joice said: “People have realised that in these new facilities it easy to provide exactly what the birds need and so more and more old housing is being replaced by modern facilities which is good because it’s enabling more of us to get a better message across.”

And he was pleased that he could counter the perception of some visitors, who thought that birds were kept in cages.

The event was supported by staff from the National Farmers’ Union, the Red Tractor quality food mark scheme and Banham Poultry.

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