Cracking into more markets where there’s a chance to tell their story and stand out is the number-one goal for Great Northern Poultry this year, Cameron Ward says.
He and business partner Angus Shephard could have some big opportunities with their black Namoi silkies.
They include getting into more high-end supermarkets and restaurants; maybe setting up a mobile abattoir; and introducing more people to the birds’ look and taste.
Already taking notice are modern Chinese and native Australian fusion restaurant Donna Chang – which one review called a “sensation”, and sustainable food advocates and distributors Handsourced, both in Brisbane.
Donna Chang’s demand is growing, with dishes such as twice-cooked chicken with lemon aspen and ginger, and Handsourced has introduced them to other restaurants and fine dining events, with more in the offing.
The men began with traditional Chinese silkies at their farms north-east of Gunnedah, bringing in other heritage bloodlines that “dramatically” improved growth rate, fat content and taste.
“Silkies are traditionally quite lean, a bit tougher, hence why the Asian market turned it into broth, soups or stews … now we’re able to use the birds in all sorts of conventional ways: roasting, grilling and frying.”
And “when people taste it, they say: ‘Wow, it takes like the chicken we used to have”.
“It has a lot stronger chicken flavour and is quite moist. The skin goes really nice and crispy, and you get a bit of a contrast when the cooked flesh goes white against the dark skin.”
They’ve gained accreditation through PROOF, an Australian certification program for animals raised on pasture in open fields.
And “ideally, we’d love to have our own abattoir – and there’s an increasing ability to do it,” Mr Ward said.
“From the information I was given 12 to 18 months ago ... it was never going to happen, but now [Dubbo’s Extraordinary Pork] have got one through, it might open the floodgates.”
This would eliminate hours of travel, and stress on the animals.
“There’s a massive trend in society to know where our food comes from, how it’s grown and how well it’s looked after,” he said.
“From a personal perspective, I like to raise animals so they’re healthy, happy and have a good life. From a consumer perspective, at the moment it gives a little bit of a market edge.”