Food Producer, Essex Birds

Wilf Robinson works in partnership with his father, John, and together they run Essex Birds, a business they began three years ago.

‘It all started from a casual comment from my father,’ explains Wilf. ‘He was talking about chickens he remembered from his childhood and how they were special and tasted full of flavour.’

This got Wilf thinking and it coincided with his father-in-law asking him to come and help run an arable farm. Now Wilf and John use 13 acres of the 600-acre farm to rear free-range chickens.

‘At any one time we have 2,500 birds roaming the grass meadows. They sleep overnight in wooden arks and our birds are bred in the traditional free-range way to very strict standards,’ adds Wilf. Wilf’s birds are all Hubbards, picked especially for their slow-growing qualities which give the meat its rich flavour, coupled with a generous meat-to-bone ratio. Each bird is raised for 12 weeks (in most commercial poultry these days the average is just six weeks) and then the meat is hung for a further four days to really boost the flavour.

Each bird is processed by hand to minimise stress, with giblets sealed in separately for a rich gravy stock. Essex Birds also breed celebration chickens, perfect for a special occasion. These birds are at least 3.5kg in size which is enough to feed at least eight hungry adults. Essex Birds has an online facility where you can order fresh chicken to be delivered to your door or you’ll find a stall at a number of local farmers’ markets including Barleylands, Wanstead and Southend. You can also ask for Essex Birds poultry at your local butchers too.

This year Wilf is taking his chickens on the road, appearing at various food shows and festivals with Essex Birds chicken meat freshly cooked and served in tortilla wraps with salad. ‘It gives people a chance to sample the difference in taste before they commit to buying a whole chicken. They are going down extremely well.’ It seems customers can certainly taste the difference. ‘We’re gradually supplying more and more quality restaurants in Essex with our birds. But we’re not looking to become too big. It’s focussing on doing a good job in a traditional way that’s making our birds taste best.’

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