Experience - and common sense - tells us that the better birds are cared for, the better the quality and flavour of the chicken they produce. All of our chicken comes from a group of carefully selected British farmers and suppliers who have worked with us for several years. They understand and share our values and our commitment to rearing our birds to the highest standards of quality and animal welfare.
Please remember not to wash raw chicken as the splashing water can spread campylobacter. Cooking your chicken thoroughly kills this bacteria.
Essential Waitrose British chicken
Chicken in the "Essential Waitrose" range is produced by farmers who have worked exclusively for Waitrose for several years. They understand the importance of quality standards in producing succulent chicken. They also feel as passionately as we do about standards of animal welfare. Birds are fed a diet enriched with maize which gives excellent eating quality, and are reared in purpose-built houses with large windows down each side to allow the natural light to stream in. They also have straw bales to play with to keep them fit and active.
The hens have 20 per cent more space than the industry standard, giving our birds the room they need to move freely. These standards meet the RSPCA's recommendations for stocking density and have the support of other key organisations such asCompassion In World Farming (CIWF) (this link opens a new window).
Free range British chicken
Our free range birds have unrestricted access to pasture during the day where they can forage and range. Chickens are descended from jungle fowl that naturally live in the undergrowth so we provide cover and shelters to make them feel protected and secure. At night they return to their houses for protection against predators. Free range birds are reared for longer, and the combination of the outdoor life and a balanced diet all help to ensure succulence and flavour, and a firmer texture. To learn more see the video on this page.
Free range corn-fed British chicken
This delicious and richly flavoured bird has a characteristically golden colour to the flesh, which comes from its maize based diet. The hens are reared in the same way as our other free range birds.
Free range Leckford Chicken
These birds are reared exclusively for Waitrose on our own Waitrose Farm on the Leckford Estate, where the high standard of free-range poultry husbandry ensures excellent quality and healthier, happier birds.
Owned by Waitrose for over 75 years, Leckford Estate is a 4,000 acre working farm spread around the banks of the River Test in the Hampshire countryside, and provides a rich variety of top-quality produce sold only in Waitrose stores.
The birds are from a naturally slow-maturing breed and are reared in a way that respects and encourages their natural instincts and behaviour as well as producing chicken that is tender, juicy and full of flavour.
Flocks are allowed to roam freely in their own dedicated open fields planted with trees and shrubs, with the space to scratch and forage at will, and perches both inside and out to explore and to roost on.
Leckford Estate is a member of LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) which aims to combine the best of traditional and modern farming methods and ensure that they work in harmony with the environment.
Our regional Wiltshire and Dorset birds are reared in a similar way at East Clyffe Farm and Roosters Farm.
Organic free range British chicken
Waitrose organic chickens are reared from a slower growing breed, free to roam in organic pastures and fed an organic cereal-based diet. At night the birds return to their houses as a precaution against predators. The organic farms are regularly and independently audited by Organic Farmers and Growers.
How should Waitrose chicken be cooked?
Whilst all our chicken is protected from Salmonella it is good practice to follow Food Standards Agency guidelines and cook all chicken thoroughly until the juices run clear when pierced with a fork. To prepare chicken, before cooking, remove all packaging. Wash all work surfaces, cutting boards, utensils and hands thoroughly after touching raw meat. Do not reheat cooked chicken once cooled.
Enjoying chicken safely
Chicken is the most widely eaten meat in this country because it offers great value as well as being delicious and versatile. However, if handled without good kitchen hygiene or proper cooking, it can cause food poisoning. This is why you’ll see detailed on pack instructions pointing out that you shouldn’t wash raw chicken and should always cook it until the juices from the meat run clear.
Campylobacter is an organism sometimes occurring on raw chicken that can make you ill. It is destroyed by thorough cooking while good kitchen hygiene, such as not washing raw poultry – whether whole birds or pieces - avoids spreading the bacteria around kitchen surfaces. Campylobacter is the focus of a Food Standards Agency campaign that Waitrose is proud to support.
Waitrose and its supplier commitment to tackling campylobacter
Waitrose fully supports the Food Standards Agency’s efforts to eradicate campylobacter.
Along with the FSA, our suppliers and other food businesses, we're working hard to reduce and remove campylobacter from chicken and to find new solutions to this long-standing issue.
We source our chicken from carefully chosen family farms we know and trust and we’re working with them to ensure that their chickens are raised in the best conditions at low stocking densities. Our processor is also working closely with us on research to reduce and eradicate campylobacter while Waitrose has had a seat on the FSA’s joint working group on Campylobacter since the group’s inception.
Work by the FSA demonstrates that consumers can play a part too in removing the risk of illness from campylobacter. They can do this by making sure they always handle raw chicken properly according to retailer and FSA guidelines; do not wash the birds or chicken pieces and cook thoroughly until juices run clear. This approach ensures that chicken can always be enjoyed safely. Some of our chicken also comes ready to cook in a roasting bag, which is a great option for the busy cook.
These are some of things we have been doing in the fight against campylobacter:
• For customers who don’t want to handle raw chicken, we offer a 1.5kg bird already in a roasting bag that can be popped straight into the oven. More ‘roast in the bag’ options are being introduced shortly
• Waitrose pioneered the sale of chicken in hermetically sealed packaging
• Our labels clearly state that customers should not wash chicken
• Our unique farming system operates at lower stocking densities which we believe delivers better animal welfare; and we believe that good welfare is key in the fight against campylobacter
• We only source our fresh chicken from the best family run farms ensuring traceability, great animal welfare and stringent biosecurity
• Along with our supplier, we have kept our farmers up to date with the latest understanding of campylobacter
• Our farmers have had extensive training to ensure that they and their teams operate to the highest levels of (biosecurity) cleanliness. Our requirements are above and beyond what is regarded as best practice by industry generally
• Measurement is another key in controlling campylobacter and we analyse our data regularly and in depth
• We are members of the FSA’s Joint Working Group on campylobacter and have been since its inception
• As an individual business we take this issue very seriously and have an in house team regularly monitoring progress
• We were one of the retailers to fund on farm research into the effects of on farm bio security on levels of campylobacter
• We have funded a number of on farm research projects with Liverpool University
• We proudly supported the recent National Farmers Union Conference on the topic
• We hosted our own campylobacter workshops with Professor Chris Elliot - representatives of the FSA attended
• Working closely with our strategic supplier we are undertaking Rapid Surface Chilling research and looking at other possible solutions to the campylobacter issue
• Our suppliers have hosted Catherine Brown and other senior FSA team members to demonstrate exactly what is being done
• We have communicated the safe handling of chicken message on our Waitrose Saturday Kitchen television programme, which is broadcast on Channel 4 on Saturday mornings. We have also carried the message in our publications – including Waitrose Weekend with a circulation of 400,000 copies – on our website, across social media and in our shops