Australia’s largest organic poultry producer is right in our own backyard on the Darling Downs.

Inglewood Farms grows around 300,000 broilers and is located near Inglewood between Warwick and Goondiwindi. The area is supported by the expansive Coolmunda Dam, home to a plethora of native plants, wildlife and birds.

Purchased by the Youngberry family in late 2013 from receivers for  RM Williams Agricultural Holdings, they are using their considerable agricultural expertise to build Inglewood Farms into a thriving business.

According to CEO Katrina Hobbs (nee Youngberry), “It’s a huge challenge turning the business around, but as we peel back the layers of corporatisation left by the previous owners, we see so much potential for the business to thrive under a family operation.”

The multigenerational Youngberry family is also Australia’s largest producer of cucumbers. Eden Farms in Bundaberg has 11 hectares of hydroponic greenhouses and their certified organic grain company, Country Heritage Feeds, will continue to supply grain to Inglewood Farms, vertically integrating the two organisations.

Both Country Heritage Feeds and Inglewood Farms are certified Australian Certified Organic, approval for which takes many years to achieve through rigorous and ongoing testing of all facets of production. This certification is about providing product to a more discerning consumer who wants to know what they are eating or feeding their family by asking where their food comes from and how it is produced. “Organic consumption in Australia is projected to grow 10 to 15 per cent in the coming years.  While organic products only represent about one per cent of grocery sales right now, we so often follow American trends and their organic consumption has grown to four per cent of their total sales, so there is every reason to see a bright future for the organic industry,” says Katrina.

So, what is so special about organic chicken and is it worth the premium price? It offers superior taste, nutrition and health and is freed of all nasties by using different production processes and highly regulated inputs. There is also the animal welfare aspect to consider.

Katrina says, “We feed our birds a unique organic feed ration. The costs associated with this are significantly higher than conventional feed. This coupled with an increased cost of compliance to legislate animal welfare results in a notably higher production cost.”

Inglewood Farms uses air chilling where birds are cooled for four to six hours whereas the conventional industry uses spin chilling where the birds are dropped into a slurry of chlorinated iced water, chilling in less than five minutes. As the birds cool they absorb water adding up to nine per cent weight gain. Certified organic birds lose two per cent weight in the cooling process which enhances flavour. Katrina says, “We are dedicated to rearing premium quality chicken using strict certified organic farming methods. Whether you’re cooking for health or eating for pleasure, our birds are better for you. The taste and texture is superior, the meat lean and succulent. Our birds are able to forage freely on dedicated grass forage areas, living as nature intended with fresh air and sunshine.”

The Youngberrys are actively working on building strong links with the Inglewood community, echoing their other operations in Bundaberg, Hampton, Highfields and Pittsworth. And it is no wonder, with Inglewood Farms employing 100 of the town’s 800 residents to process up to 27,000 birds every week.

Inglewood Farms chicken is distributed through Woolworths under the Macro organic brand and as Inglewood Farms chicken at Coles and in other organic retail stores and supermarkets across Australia.

Words by Janet Kieseker