Words by Ruby Spillman
Breeding award-winning produce is definitely something to crow about. But for Rob Joyce of Heritage Poultry, the real prize is honing his craft and getting to do what he loves every day.
For back-to-back years in 2018 and 2019, Rob has taken out the prestigious Delicious Produce Award for this Joyce’s Gold Heritage Chickens, thanks to their renowned flavoursome taste.
However, producing his award-winning birds did not happen overnight. Growing up on the farm he now owns and manages, Rob has had a passion for poultry for as long as he can remember.
“I loved reading old books on old poultry breeds and farming methods and always loved crossing different breeds to see what resulted,” he said.
In 2008, Rob started successfully selling birds directly to the public and quickly had to expand operations after the demand for his chickens escalated.
“Chicken keeping in backyards was booming at the time and people not only wanted the standard black, brown and white layers but also the purebred Heritage breeds,” Rob said.
The Joyce's stock about 25 different breeds of chickens, servicing the Scenic Rim and wider communities for all poultry needs. Following this, Rob said his biggest break in poultry farming was about six years ago when he was approached by several businessmen about breeding a type of chicken with more flavour, while still keeping the process economically viable.
“Birds have been bred to grow faster and faster and are now processed at only five weeks,” he said. “This is a great way to produce cheap and raise protein, but the traditional chicken flavour is lost."
After a lengthy process, Rob managed to produce a bird that reached the market weight in twelve weeks, with another strain taking sixteen weeks. Full of the highly-sought-after flavour, the Joyce’s Gold Heritage Chicken has cemented its place as the breed to match for taste.
“After a few years we were happy with the results and started sending the chicks to growers in NSW and Victoria and they went really well and eventually ended up winning the awards,” Rob said.
As the chicks have a more natural growth rate than regular meat chickens, Rob mentioned they were also better suited to free-range and had the ability to tolerate hot outdoor conditions.
The Joyce’s are now directly supplying butchers in Brisbane and restaurants in the Scenic Rim, including Kooroomba Vineyard and Lavender Farm.
“Chef Daniel Groneberg is a great supporter of local produce and has our product on the menu,” Rob said.
Excited by the potential of his birds, Rob has started running small batches at his Kalbar farm and plans to expand the business and buy a second farm in the Scenic Rim as early as next year.
“We love the beauty of the Scenic Rim, its proximity to Brisbane and its growing reputation as a food bowl,” he said.