The happy chickens of the Label Rouge. A visit to our French neighbors.
In the morning, shortly after seven in France. The first rays of the sun are crawling over the horizon. All around us fields and meadows are still in foggy shades of gray. Pretty far away, you can see a street where a tiny car rushes every now and then. And is that possibly a house back there? Otherwise only silence, space and nature - as far as the eye can see. We are on a Label Rouge farm, about one and a half hours southwest of Paris. Right here, the guinea fowl will get up to start their day on the meadow. And we will be there.
My chic, knee-high plastic moonboats rustle softly as we travel the few hundred yards from the farmhouse to the poultry house. I had to pull that in the rural front yard as protection over my normal shoes. It's not even all about protecting my shoes from any guinea fowl legacy. Much more should the guinea fowl be sheltered from what I may carry around with me on my street shoes - pathogens, for example.
A herd of cows is already awake and is running curiously to the fence of the willow where I'm just passing by. I guess that not a lot of people come here by and by. Not at this time. And certainly not in such chic boots. 20 darn big cows and three calves are staring at me fascinated. I wave at them casually and I'm really glad that a small wire fence separates us. Otherwise, the curious gang would have wanted to nibble on me or the boat.
With the guinea fowl out of their pens - a very early morning on the farm
And then I can hear them all at once - many excited guinea fowl voices! What a fantastic sound in the otherwise quiet landscape. The closer I get to the poultry house, the louder the choir becomes. The guineafowl spent the night in their long stable. Like many domestic poultry, they are very vulnerable and seek out their stable by dusk at the latest - because out there are lurking foxes, birds of prey and sometimes even human hunters. But now it forces her back out into the green pasture. The farmer moves a big lever on the barn wall and the doors open.
The guinea fowl floods the still lonely meadow like a silver-gray wave. Everybody obviously wants to be the first chicken - what a crush and cackling! The guinea fowl surges around us and peace has returned two minutes later: The birds have spread out over the pasture and start their chicken day work: pecking, running, eating, plumage, resting, pawing and cuddling under bushes. Each of the guinea fowl has an area of at least four to five square meters on its own. However, there seems to be much more space available here, because large parts of the really huge pasture are not used by the birds at all.Nutrition and food production are topics that are extremely important to us today. We have an abundance of choices, are accustomed to being able to buy everything at very reasonable prices, benefit from an extremely high standard of food safety - and at the same time struggle hard with the consequences of these circumstances. Mentally we like to vacillate between a picture-perfect idyll of the farm with dung heap plus farm dog and the pictures of cruel conditions in the rearing of animals. Or the land-destroying monoculture of popular crops such as soy, almonds and palm oil. What else can you buy where? Eat something? This dilemma is often so difficult that we simply hide it in everyday life - completely understandable. But it's worth it to take a closer look. Especially when farmers and producers develop concepts that fill the big gap and enable species-appropriate rearing or sustainable land use. Such as at Label Rouge.
Label Rouge - the French Seal of high standards since 1958
The Rouge label was created in the late 1950s Years. At that time, the European population suddenly exploded after the war and a lot of food was needed to feed all the people. The market reacted to this increased demand with new industrial concepts - especially in poultry farming. Thus, a large number of poultry landed on the French market, which had been raised according to this new, efficient principle: very fast growing, as many chickens in a small space, no movement, much breast meat and thighs, fattening feed. These cheap chickens were popularly called "American chickens" at the time, though they were mostly from the UK.
The French farmers and butchers were appalled and worried. This new chicken standard had nothing to do with their ideas of how to handle the animal properly, and above all, its excellent meat quality. In order to identify their chickens raised to "old standards" and set them apart from the cheap masses, they created the label Rouge together with the French Ministry of Agriculture.
The high standards of the Label Rouge have been incorporated into French legislation added. Even today they continue to apply to the family businesses of the Label Rouge farmers and differ significantly from conventional chicken breeding. Only those who truly adhere to the standards, which are always independently controlled, are allowed to pass the state-issued seal. The generous freewheeling on the green meadow during the day counts as well as non-GM feed, the avoidance of a precautionary medication or the use of purely herbal and homeopathic medicines as well as shortest possible ways to regional slaughterhouses.Their feed consists of 100% pure vegetable food - of which at least 75% is from local cereals, which is either grown by the farmers themselves or without large transport routes from other farmers in the region. Each individual chicken can also be traced back to its producer for maximum transparency through an individual number. The chickens raised for Label Rouge are also among the slow-growing, agile breeds with long legs and a natural chicken figurine that likes to roam outside all day long. And you can clearly see that - there is something going on on the chicken meadow. And Double-D definitely does not have any of the chickens here.
Meanwhile, the standards of Label Rouge are also available for cattle, sheep, pigs, vegetables and even French flowers.
Chickens without Borders - the free life in the pin ienwald
We leave the guinea fowl and head southwest France towards Bordeaux. In the region of Les Landes - the cradle of the label Rouge - we visit a family business that raises its chickens in the middle of the pine forest without any fences. In this region, this type of chicken farming has been a historically grown tradition since Napoleon; Over 70% of chicken breeders keep their animals free in the forest. The chicken houses can be equipped with wheels and, if necessary, moved to another place in the forest. There, the chickens can rumstromern then to their heart's content (and as far as they carry their pretty feet). Here, the very different chicken personalities reveal themselves: Some of the birds also spend the day near the chicken coop and spend one or the other half hour inside. Others take off adventurously several hundred yards from the stable and walk deep into the forest. Absolutely free chicken development!
It's really incredible fun to watch these chickens. The plumage is magnificent and shimmering in the sun. Incidentally, the relatively bare neck is part of the chicken breed here. And only the great yellow feet - they have done to me very special!There are chicken species (like our guinea fowl at the top), which are very scary and shy and definitely avoid unknown people. And others who rush enthusiastically and curiously at visitors. Here in the pine forest, we are dealing with a very open-minded species: After a short time, the pretty birds come closer to look at us extensively.
Unfortunately, I can not show you all the fifty thousand chicken photos that I made have. But a few will definitely go:
Label Rouge in Germany - where can you get that?
In France, more than two thirds of chickens sold now carry the label Rouge Siegel. The French just have it! But Label Rouge poultry is also available in Germany - exclusively as a fresh bird and not as frozen food. For larger supermarkets you will certainly find in the refrigerated counter. At retail markets or butchers you can just ask if Label Rouge can be ordered. And in case of doubt, the internet and specialist online mail order service can be used.
In terms of price, a Rouge poultry label is looser over a chicken from conventional breeding - but still well below a organic chicken. Even restaurants that attach importance to quality and origin in their products used, incidentally, more and more often lead the label Rouge in their card. Just take care! Label Rouge is a great way to treat (maybe) less frequently, but with a clear conscience, a happy poultry. And to appreciate. It's worth it.
P.S .: A little tip - at Christmas time Label Rouge turkeys and geese are also offered. That could be a nice alternative for a successful party.
Thanks : Thank you to Label Rouge and the farmers and families who opened their homes and businesses to us on this trip and answered any question - no matter how stupid or provocative. And many thanks to the chickens for the fantastic job as photo models as well as to the farm dogs for the extremely dedicated herding of the tour group. The text and the photos were created without any influence on content or specifications and are based on my own experience and opinion.