SFH on Tour – Sutton Hoo
July 21, 2023

sutton hoo chickens

SFH on tour is back! It’s been a couple of weeks since we’ve had a SFH on tour and this time we took a small trip to Sutton Hoo, one of our suppliers of chickens in the butchery.

It’s around a 16 mile trip to Sutton Hoo from Suffolk Food Hall and the farm land holding the chickens is next to the Sutton Hoo Natural Trust site, we were met by Josie and Will, Josie is the Sales and Marketing Manager and Will is General Manager. Whilst we could not get onto the land due to ongoing safety measures we were able to view from the fenced area just outside and still meant we got to see the birds in their set up.

Sutton Hoo have been supplying us for a little while now and are one of our big suppliers for the Christmas period, also each Wednesday their birds come in fresh to us, the total time from picking until arriving with us is 48 hours and at under 20 miles away, they really are a local supplier!

Will and Josie took us to two sides of the acreage (they work on around 40 acres I believe) and talked us through the process of rearing the chickens, the breed, housing and the difference compared to other farms. I shall try to summarise this as best I can.

The birds they rear are a hybrid breed, special for the way the farm grows their chickens, with the right genetics for growth, taste, size and how long they take to grow. Sutton Hoo specifically chose a breed that is slower growing because they want that flavour and craftmanship to come through, and it certainly does in the end.

The birds enjoy spacious sheds with open doors, allowing them ample room to roam and run freely (which led to some entertaining moments as they darted around while I tried to capture pictures). Their diet consists of a nutritious blend of corn, soya, and essential vitamins. Notably, they follow a natural eating pattern, feeding only when there is light, unlike intensively reared chickens in commercial sheds that have artificial lighting for continuous feeding.

These sheds are thoughtfully designed to be mobile, mounted on sleds and easily movable by tractor. Throughout the year, the dedicated team relocates the sheds and clears the area, ensuring the chickens’ cleanliness and managing disease effectively. It’s an impressive practice that also enables the local organic farmer, Foskett, to collect the organic waste and utilize it as valuable nourishment for their own farm – a truly remarkable approach.

It was truly fascinating to observe the chickens actively grazing on the grass, relishing every little bug and insect they came across. What’s even more commendable is the team’s commitment to maintaining a completely natural process. They refrain from using any chemicals or sprays on the fields, allowing the chickens to interact with their environment in a wholesome manner.

While the birds have access to feeders in their sheds, their diet is well-balanced and carefully crafted. The pellets they receive consist of approximately 60% wheat, 20% maize, with a dash of soy for protein, vitamins, and minerals. To further enhance the nutritional variety, whole grains are mixed in, ensuring that it’s not solely a pellet-based diet. This approach, though slower in the growing process, is aligned with their natural digestion and overall well-being.

An essential aspect that sets them apart is their refusal to use any hormones. By taking this ethical stance, they demonstrate their commitment to running their flock in a responsible and sustainable manner, prioritizing the health and welfare of the chickens above all else.

As we ventured to another area of the site, we had a closer look at the sheds. I tried my best to discreetly capture some close-up shots, but the birds proved to be quite observant and wary of their surroundings. It was heartwarming to see them enjoying the sun’s rays, running around playfully, and seeking shelter in the shade when needed.

One remarkable aspect of Sutton Hoo’s operations is the incredibly short supply chain to the Food Hall. From the moment of picking, it takes a mere 48 hours for the products to reach us, all within a distance of fewer than 20 miles! It’s a testament to their commitment to providing fresh, locally-sourced poultry.

While many of our loyal customers especially cherish Sutton Hoo birds during the festive season, it’s important to note that these free-range delights are available every Wednesday at our butchery counter. After all, chicken isn’t exclusively reserved for Christmas; its delicious taste and exceptional quality can be enjoyed throughout the year.

We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Sutton Hoo and eagerly anticipate another fantastic Christmas season together. If you haven’t had the opportunity to try their chickens yet, we wholeheartedly recommend giving them a taste.

In summary, their philosophy, as outlined on their website, revolves around three key pillars:

  1. Craft – Their approach involves tending to small groups of birds housed in mobile, naturally ventilated, and well-lit houses. With over 40 acres of roaming space, the chickens are free to graze and exhibit natural behaviors. Their diet contains no antibiotics or hormones, ensuring a wholesome and natural upbringing.
  2. Time – Sutton Hoo places emphasis on rearing chickens at a slower pace, allowing them to naturally mature and develop, resulting in a fuller and more succulent flavor. Their breed is thoughtfully designed to align with these principles, growing 25% longer than standard free-range chickens.
  3. Taste – The dedication to time and craft translates into a superior taste experience. The chickens’ increased exercise, longer growth period, and diverse diet all contribute to the exceptional flavor of the final product. The loyalty of their satisfied customers serves as a testament to the undeniable quality.

A heartfelt thank you goes out to Josie and Will for graciously sparing their time to share their knowledge with us and giving us an insightful tour of their grounds. 

You can find out more about Sutton Hoo here https://www.suttonhoochicken.co.uk/