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.
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 as Compassion In World Farming (CIWF) (this link opens a new window).
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.
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.
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.