Thursday, December 7, 2023

Free-range chooks scoop top award

Avatar photo
Living a carefree life comprising a diet of bugs, apples and organic maize has earned the chickens raised by Hawke’s Bay brothers George and Ben Bostock New Zealand’s supreme food award. The Bostock brothers were named the supreme champions for their organic whole chicken brand in this year’s Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards. 
Reading Time: 2 minutes


The firm was established by Ben five years ago.

Today the brothers supply organic, free-range chicken to butchers, supermarkets and the pre-covid-19 restaurant trade.  

“We are definitely what you could describe as the purple cow of the chicken industry. It’s an industry dominated by four very big players and we only form about 0.3% of the market,” George said. 

The poultry sector is estimated at about 120 million birds a year.

The brothers were determined to rear genuine free-range chickens and were dismayed when they saw what was categorised as conventional free-range. 

“The chickens were still housed very densely with up to 50,000 chickens in a shed and the only thing that meant it could be called free-range was that they could go into a small area outside,” he said. 

NZ has no formal certification system regularly audited for free-range claims.

A trip to France to view free-range, organic operations there opened their eyes to what a true free-range, premium chicken operation could be.

The Bostocks have fashioned their operation along those lines, running a maximum of 6000 birds a shed with over a hectare of land for them to roam on, much of it an old apple orchard they bought especially. 

Typically, their chickens have 30 times more space than a conventional free-range chicken.



“They have a diet that includes the older style green apples in the orchard like Granny Smiths along with the bugs, grass and organic maize we grow ourselves to feed them with so it’s a pretty good life and a good diet,” he said. 

The organic, free-range standard provides the specifications lacking under conventional systems, including limiting the number of chickens per square metre.

The organic standard extends to growing time and does not permit slaughter younger than six weeks old. Bostocks are typically processed at eight or nine weeks.

“This gives more time for the chicken to develop more fat within the meat and, of course, for more flavour to develop.”

The brothers are also the only company using air chilling to treat chicken carcases post-slaughter.

“All others drop the chickens once killed into a chlorine solution. This has been banned in the European Union but is still used here. The result is a carcase that has a larger amount of water in it that becomes part of the weight sold.”

The brothers share an organic heritage with their father John, a high-profile organic apple grower in Hawke’s Bay who led the charge to keep Hawke’s Bay GE free.

“We see the region as being quite special in terms of how it is the source of so much good-quality food nowadays. Winning this award is a great plus for us – to be judged as the best by NZ’s top foodies is very special.”

The brothers were also named Paddock Champions with their whole chicken and won gold medals for their chicken thigh and breast products.

Other winners included Pure NZ ice cream as the dairy champion and Zaroa for its speciality Angus beef brisket. Otago Farmers’ Market was awarded the People’s Choice award while Fernglen Farm the People’s Choice award for its pure sheep’s milk.

The awards were judged in early March by 25 judges, including leading NZ food writer and chef Lauraine Jacobs.

She said the entrants are helping regenerate NZ’s food system into a more resilient, healthy and socially responsible industry.

“It is good for our environment, good for people and good for business,” she said.


A full list of winners is available on line at:

People are also reading