At Pipers Farm, we don't work alone. In partnership with around 25 family farms, we produce slow-grown, native breeds, in harmony with the environment. This collective of families is integral to the Pipers Farm story – we all share an ethos, and together we strive to offer a real alternative to industrial meat.
At the core of our ethos is animal welfare, coupled with a belief in traditional methods and a reliance on the power of nature. 27 years ago, Peter and Henri Greig's inspiration to start Pipers Farm came from their experience in industrialised chicken production. The sad truth is that not many people know what natural chicken really tastes like. And that’s a bitter irony considering that it's the most popular meat on the planet. The problem is that the majority of chicken is factory farmed. In our view, the ambiguous term here is ‘farm’ not ‘factory’, how can a concrete-floored steel shed, full of automated machines, and without light or grass constitute a ‘farm’? Belief in growing meat the natural way is the backbone of our philosophy: it's the only way that you as the consumer can shop with confidence and absolutely certainty that the food you are eating is healthy, wholesome, flavoursome and nutritious. A few millennia ago we evolved from ‘savages’ to farmers who nurtured their livestock, in an unwritten contract of symbiosis and respect for both animals and the environment. Today we know this as ‘good husbandry’. But the mechanization of industrialised farming processes has created a disconnect between farmer and animal. This poses the question: how is welfare put to the forefront of husbandry if those caring for the animals have no contact with them.
We're proud that the families who grow our chickens do it the natural way, starting with a breeding flock of cockerels and hens who produce the next generation of birds. The eggs are collected every day, not by machine, but by hand from nesting boxes; often done by the children on the farm. Once hatched the chicks are brooded in a barn that's warmed by a biomass boiler (very green and healthy). When they've feathered up they're let out into the fields. Our birds spend a lot of time freely roaming amongst the grass, scratching for bugs and worms and just generally doing what a chicken is supposed to. Being out in the fields rather than in barns or cages means they get plenty of fresh air and are out in the sunlight – keeping them healthy and free from disease. Most importantly, our chickens have a life nearly three times as long as that of a factory farmed bird. This means they've reached maturity naturally – not with the help of growth promoters and drugs – and the meat they produce as a result is tender, robustly flavoured and beautifully textured.
It's common now for there to be a disassociation between how animals are grown and what their natural instincts drive them to do. This isn’t only true of chickens, it can be the case for any species of animal that enters the food chain. Pigs are well-known for their intelligence and sensitivity and one of nature's amazing phenomena is when a sow, in the later stages of her pregnancy, has the natural urge to farrow. She makes a nest and a channel to guide her piglets from the birth canal to the teat, to make sure they feed. A sow can't do in this in a factory farm where as her movement is restricted so she gives birth on a concrete floor, unable even to turn round and bond with her young. For us, this isn't farming. And for many others out there, this isn't the way they want to farm either. Working together we have the chance to turn the clock back and farm with real attention to welfare, as our grandparents would have, with respect for nature and a good honest pinch of common sense.
Of course, while the livestock is vital to us, so are the families that make Pipers Farm what it is today. Farming is an industry that's suffered many knocks, meaning traditional mixed farms (where crops and animals grow alongside each other) are less common than they used to be. The benefit of mixed farming is that the economic peaks and troughs of each activity can smooth each other out: if the price of wheat is down, pork might be up, for example. One of our ambitions is to see the return to strength of mixed farms run by families. Many of the younger generation have left farming, not because they don't love it, but because it can't support them financially. We want to encourage youngsters to stay on the farm, learning from their parents and grandparents and bringing new energy and optimism.
Our bonds with these family farms are deeply rooted, with business being agreed on an old- fashioned hand shake and trust in each other. We agree terms ahead of time and stick by them whatever the rest of the market does. This means our partners can plan ahead, certain of our business. As our business grows, so does the opportunity to support another family, so we thank you all for your continued support.
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