Waitrose is committed to high standards of home-grown produce as exemplified at Leckford, our busy and productive farming estate in Hampshire. In fact, Waitrose is one of the few major retailers that actually grows produce itself. The 4,000-acre Leckford Estate provides a range of produce for Waitrose stores, including milk, poultry, mushrooms, apples, pears, cider apple juice, eggs and honey, many of them identified by the Leckford logo either on the packaging or at point of sale.
Milk is a staple food we take for granted, a product most of us consume everyday. So it is particularly important that you can be sure of its freshness and quality. essential Waitrose Milk comes from specially selected dairy farms in the south of England and Leckford is one of those farms. All the farms have achieved outstanding levels of animal welfare and farming procedures. The milk is fully traceable back to these farms and is exclusive to Waitrose.
High standards of animal welfare
At Leckford we supply milk from our Holstein Friesians as essential Waitrose Milk. During the summer months our cows are free to graze on rich pastures, while in winter they are housed in welfare friendly housing and are fed on grass and maize grown at Leckford in the summer.
Practising what we preach
At Leckford, we demonstrate the principles we expect from all our milk suppliers in our own milk production and processing. Waitrose's Responsible Sourcing Code of Conduct ensures that people, animals and the environment, involved in the supply of our products, are protected from exploitation.
For more information:
essential Waitrose Milk
Every week the Leckford Mushroom Farm produces about 28 tonnes of cup mushrooms. Within 24 hours of picking they are sitting on the Waitrose shelves, ready to be enjoyed at their best.
The mushroom experts
There is a real art involved in the meticulous work of growing, picking and packing mushrooms. Mushrooms bruise easily and have a short shelf life so the pickers gently twist and pull each mushroom by hand, expertly trimming the stem before popping it straight into its punnet for delivery to our branches, Leckford has a dedicated and motivated team, who are working Partners at the farm.
Using our own resources
The idea for Leckford Mushroom Farm grew, quite literally, out of a surplus of straw. We grow more straw than is needed for our cows and thatched cottages, so in 1986 it was decided to turn the straw into compost suitable for growing mushrooms.
The natural growing cycle
Now a natural, sustainable cycle of production is well established: we grow the straw, produce the compost in association with an independent compost-making company on the estate, grow the mushrooms, and then recycle the compost back as an excellent top dressing for the estate soil. Some compost is sold through our Longstock Nursery.
Waitrose prides itself on being different - it is a pioneering attitude that goes back to John Spedan Lewis. When he bought Leckford in 1928, he insisted on planting orchards on chalk down land, even though that meant flying in the face of conventional thinking. As one of the few fruit farms on this soil type, we select our varieties carefully, so that the flavour imparted by the underlying chalk produces fine flavoured apples and pears.
The Leckford Estate Fruit Farm has been nurtured and expanded and now stretches over 230 acres, protected from the wind by lines of tall trees. Well-established English favourites, such as Cox's, Worcester Pearmain and Bramley, make up the main apple production.
Personal attention to detail
The skill with which Leckford fruit is tended makes all the difference to the flavour of the apples and pears. From the moment the fruit is ripe for picking, it receives special treatment from expert pickers. And during the autumn and winter months, all of the 60,000 fruit trees are carefully pruned by hand.
Fantastic flavour and great storage quality
As well as flavour, growing on chalk imparts first-class storage quality to the fruit, helping to sustain the English apple season. The apple harvest at Leckford - nearly 1,000 tonnes per year - runs from mid August to late September. Every fruit is carefully boxed so that it is delivered in peak condition to Waitrose branches and the Fruit Farm's own shop. Our carefully-stored fruit tends to be the last fruit available through to the very end of the season, ensuring supplies after Christmas and into the New Year.
In completing the circle, the pollination of the fruit trees needs the intervention of mother nature. Our bees play an invaluable role in pollination and at the same time provide another outstanding product - Leckford Honey. (This can be bought from selected branches only, subject to availability.)
Customers choose poultry from Waitrose for two reasons: excellent flavour and quality plus a trusted source. Leckford's flock of free range British chickens offer the finest food and meet customer needs on both counts.
At Leckford you will see mature birds, their plumage ranging from white to golden brown, milling about in the lush paddocks outside their sheds, while the younger chicks huddle happily in the warm sheds before they venture outside. We rear Leckford free range birds from day-old chicks in small flocks, using traditional husbandry techniques, for a minimum of 81 days. The birds have unlimited daytime access to fields and are fed on a corn-rich, cereal-based diet, free from antibiotic growth promoters. The chickens grow slowly to ensure they are full of flavour.
The natural growing cycle
A proportion of the chicken feed is produced on the estate, while chicken manure provides additional nourishment to the soil and for the fruit orchards - thus completing the full cycle of growth and production from the land and back again.
The highest standard accommodation
The 13 modern, warm, well-ventilated chicken sheds, each housing 1,300 birds, have been likened to a five-star hotel for chickens. And in keeping with the environmentally conscious spirit of Waitrose, energy for heating and lighting comes from solar power and wind power.
A model of best practice
As demand for free range birds grow, potential producers can view the Leckford poultry unit as an example of best practice: a model for their own developments and place in the Waitrose supply chain.
Where to find our chicken
You will find Leckford free range British Chicken in the prepacked chilled poultry department at Waitrose.
In the same way as the Leckford chicken are able to range across rich pastures our flock of Columbian Blacktail hens have unlimited daylight access to the fields to ensure their eggs are full of natural flavour. In fact they range amongst the willow trees we grow as an energy crop.
Where to find our free range eggs
Columbian Blacktail free range eggs unique to Waitrose are found in all stores.
The Leckford Estate farm shop sells apples, apple juice, eggs and honey. It is open between mid August and mid March from 9am-5pm Monday to Friday and from 2-4.30pm on Sundays. For more information call 01264 810 585