I don’t know if I’m either intellectually or morally committed enough to have something as grand as an ethical system for food shopping. I do have a rough guide for non-taste/price decisions though. Mt Barker Chicken – chicken of choice here -ticks a few boxes justifying me digging a bit deeper into my pockets.

  • local

  • humane treatment of animals

  • product as an end

  • market diversity

I did have some reservations about their claim to being hormone and antibiotic free. Not that I thought that they weren’t, but that they might be being cute as apparently it’s illegal to use hormones on chickens in Australia. I sent them an e-mail asking them about this and here’s part of their response.

In regards to your question the law states that: –

1.) It is illegal to use growth hormones or steroids in poultry, thus all chicken producers should not use them.

2.) Antibiotics may be used to treat sick chickens under veterinary supervision.

Mt Barker Free Range Chickens differ from standard chicken as extra time and effort are put into rearing the free-range chickens which we believe lowers disease and thus the need for antibiotics. Our chickens are NOT force-fed. They have 24-hour access to food and drink, which is checked several times a day.

I was impressed they responded, quickly and directly as this was my first concerned consumer letter. My hunch on this is that problems in food production comes when industrialised answers (antibiotics) are used to solve problems of the producers making (crowded production). Mt Barker Chicken seems to have tried to jump out of this spiral even if it isn’t the cheapest option. Good for them.

I don’t think this is the final word on chicken but I might try and put the subject on the “to blog about” list.

DISCLAIMER: No they haven’t sent me a years’ supply of chicken.


  1. Anonymous’s avatar

    Way to go Anthony! At least ONE of us is keeping up the side of the concerned consumer… My resolution when I get back after my holiday is to check out some of the free-range options around here that aren’t bank-breakingly expensive. It really p’s me off that you pay such a premium for ethical foods – if finance is an overriding concern you are basically forced to eat unethically produced food. And do a quick price comparison on a McMeal vs. an organic salad – it’s just outrageous.

    Good to know that Mt Barker takes your concerns seriously, though!


  2. Anthony’s avatar

    Were I so good as CC – I waited 40 minutes the other day before inquiring as to the whereabouts my coffee and cake. I think even then I got my friend to ask. Yeah it costs a bit more and I think sometimes they take the piss (OK this is actually a sweary zone) but I just use less and manage to keep a fair way above starvation. Sometimes they’re sad looking carrots but I unwittingly spent five times as much on garlic but found it to be 10 times as good. The pay off for coughing up a bit more is not just the halo effect but that it also tastes better and this is familiar purchasing ground. On the other hand there’s a service here where they drop off a mystery box of organic veges every week but I’m sure I can do better at the local markets. We may just be seeing abnormal profiteering and the prices may normalise. My biggest worry is that this will come from a lessing of standards. Oh bugger I’ve just made an unwitting topic shift to organic foods. Free range -ethical. Organic – quality.
    The McMeal is a good point in that it touches class issues on the Western poor and poor diets. It’s worth expanding on, the issues might not necessarily be cost but ….ow brain hurting.

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