Behind the Label: What Makes a SQF Chicken

Today’s Palate met up with Daniel Chalbaud of Chickmont Foods to better understand what that SQF branding we’ve been seeing around means now we see chicken in a whole new light. By the end of this article you might too!

 

Two words – chicken insurance. That’s what the SQF branding on Chickmont Foods chicken products is all about. And we will let you in on a little secret…some chickens have it, others don’t. With those that do, you will find yourself scarfing down chicken that is safe, of the highest quality, and tastes oh-so-good. But that all depends on whose chicken you’re eating. 

Chickmont Foods has gone the extra mile to ensure that their chicken has “coverage” so to speak. So, the company is certified as a Safe Quality Food provider. But what exactly does this mean? In simple terms, Chickmont Foods has established a sound food safety programme within their facility and their food products meet the highest possible global food safety standards. Even simpler – Chickmont Foods is a safe brand to eat.

According to Sheena Thorpe, Quality Administrator at Chickmont Foods, being SQF certified also means that the Chickmont brand is on the same level as other international brands. That Barbadian chicken has the same high standard in quality and taste. It is just as good! “Gone are the days when it was understood that local is good but not as good as what you could get overseas. With the SQF certification there’s no difference in quality,” she says.

Getting there, however, was no easy feat. Having stellar health and safety practices is one of the keys to being SQF certified. The company has had to go through a rigorous two and a half years of changes and adjustments to meet the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) standards. 

So how exactly does Chickmont go about standardizing the quality of chicken that is used? Well, their chicken only comes from approved suppliers. These farmers have to meet the requirements for supplying to a SQF certified brand. 

Daniel took us to meet with one of their approved chicken farmers, Ethan Defreitas, who took us on a tour of his farm. Just past the gate we drove through a concrete trough that contained a special sanitizing solution used to wash the tires of vehicles entering the premises and keep contamination out. Before entering the actual chicken pens we were also required to rinse off the bottoms of our shoes with another cleansing solution. 

Inside the pens there was a peaceful tweet and chirper. Conditions are kept at an optimum. Mr. Defraitas shared that maintaining the right temperature is especially important. He says, “You will hear them [the chickens] if they are too hot or too cold.” 

To keep on top of things at the farm he uses an app on his phone to control not only the temperature in the pen but also to adjust the lighting. Using this app he turned off the lights and there was a wave of chirping as the chickens adjusted to the darkness. Ethan says, “Once it’s dark the chickens know it’s bedtime”. He turned the lights back on then asked us to lick the palm of our hands. It instantly felt like the cool air of an A/C unit was blowing through the pen. It had become surprisingly cool. Danny said, “ This is what it feels like for the chickens”. Under the right conditions, the chickens won’t feel stressed therefore the meat won’t be tough. And therein lies one of the secrets to producing quality chicken products.

Back at the Chickmont Foods plant the conditions are also clean and sanitary. They actually go beyond just observing best practices for food handling and preparation. Before entering the packaging room, we were outfitted to suit. A restricted visitor entry protocol is enforced and no shortcuts are being taken. There, it is all about reducing and minimizing the chances of contamination. So, we covered our hair with nets and helmets. Our clothes and shoes were covered with scrubs and we washed our hands before and after putting on gloves, then once more before entering the main work area. Chickmont Foods only uses a specially formulated sanitizing solution that meets SQF requirements for handwashing. They also make sure that the floor is regularly washed down to keep the work area clean and sanitary. 

When you’re eating a piece of pre-cut chicken, have you ever wondered how that particular cut was achieved? What if we told you it was cut using water?  Daniel Chalbaud showed us a machine that Chickmont Foods has recently invested in. It’s a machine that yields a very precise and clean cut  by using powerful jets of water. He says, “That’s all part of being SQF certified, it’s about meeting customer requirements.”

And Chickmont Foods is indeed meeting customer requirements when it comes to supplying safe chicken products. Especially when it comes to restaurants, hotels and cruise liners. Sheena Thorpe explains, “Some establishments within the tourism industry prefer to serve only SQF certified chicken.”  She adds, “That is because customers stand a better chance of consuming healthier and safer chicken.”  And if there’s a case of illness, the cause can be traced right down to the egg. Sheena says, “That is possible through the SQF requirement for thorough documentation.” 

But documentation without follow through is no good. At Chickmont Foods, staff have a huge role to play and Sheena says, “ Staff have proven to be extremely reliable and dependable especially since they are the ones on the front lines.”

So when you’re making your next chicken purchase, look for the SQF certified signage. Remember that means that the chicken product is a Safe Quality Food. It is good for you because it has been in a safe environment from farm to fork. And as for the quality? It is the same juicy chicken you like! 

Caribbean Spice Christmas Roaster

Prep time: 1 day Cook time: 2:20mins Yields: 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 8-10lb Chicken Roaster 
  • 1G Salted Water
  • 3 tbsp Rotisserie Seasoning
  • 1 tbsp Jerk Seasoning (Dried)
  • 1 tbsp Paprika
  • ½ tbsp Brown Sugar
  • ½ tbsp Salt
  • ½ tbsp Ground Garlic Cloves
  • ½ tbsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp Dried Thyme Leaves
  • 1 c Vegetable Oil
  • 1 c Chicken Stock
  • 1lb of Mirepoix Mixture: Celery, Carrot and Onion

Prep:

  • Add salt and balance with a little sugar in a 1G of water.
  • Rinse Chicken under cold water and submerge in the 1G of seasoned water, leave to soak overnight. 
  • In a bowl, mix through together all spices with the cup of oil then leave undisturbed for 10 minutes.

Cook:

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) 
  • Drain the chicken on paper towel and dry properly then rub the chicken with the spice mixture thoroughly (rub all over and in all cavities!) 
  • In a roasting pan, place the vegetables at the base of the pan and place roaster chicken on top of vegetables. Roast for approximately 2hrs, basing every 45mins with chicken stock.
  • To test if your chicken is done, insert thermometer at the thickest point of the roaster – it should read 165° C. Bon appetit!

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