At Pipers Farm we acknowledge that over the years the idea of free range has become less straightforward and transparent than it could be. The rules of free range and consumer interpretation of it have become mismatched and slightly fuzzy round the edges. For us, the welfare of our animals and their quality of life comes before everything else – certainly before price and definitely before production volumes. By giving the animals on all of the farms we work with a properly free-range lifestyle, the ability to follow their instinctive behaviours, a natural diet, minimal medication and – when the time comes – a humane departure, we believe we’re producing meat that’s good for our bodies as well as being acceptable for our consciences.
To explain what we mean when we say ‘Properly Free Range’, we have to take a brief look at what ‘free range’ implies and what it actually represents. To the average person, the notion of ‘free range’ equates to ‘natural’: an animal with a natural lifestyle and a natural diet. But there are many farming systems for all species of animal that qualify as free range but which still involve animals living in vast groups, selectively bred for size, being fed growth promoters and antibiotics. None of which are exactly natural. Food labelling can be disingenuous – who knows the difference between ‘outdoor bred’ and ‘outdoor reared’ pork? – meaning that if we can’t follow the supply chain to an animal’s farm of origin we have absolutely no idea how it’s been reared.
So at Pipers Farm we stand with farmers who put their animals first. All of our domestic livestock – sheep, cattle, pigs and poultry – have properly free-range lives. They live outdoors where they can behave in a way natural to them, grazing, pecking, rooting and wallowing. If our pigs or cattle come indoors, it’s to protect them from harsh weather or adverse conditions and to ensure they can easily eat and drink. Our poultry have year-round access to pasture as well as to sheds that offer shade, shelter and safety from predators. All of our animals live in small groups that permit the age-old behaviours of the flock or herd. They’re fed a diet appropriate to their species: mother’s milk, grass, roots or cereals and they’re given medicine only when they need it. They give birth in conditions in which they’re comfortable and suckle their young for a full lactation.
To us, free range means more than just having space to move around. Which is why we call it Properly Free Range.