Farm-reared chicken from the Basque Country
Free range poultry from different breeds and stock –preferably slow-growing breeds– which are well adapted to outdoor rearing and feeding in pastures. This product is protected by the Eusko Label quality stamp awarded by the Kalitatea Foundation, a non-profit foundation created for the purpose of managing and promoting quality labels for food products from the Basque Country.
This product is sold whole and in pieces and is always identified with the Eusko Label stamp. The whole chicken can be recognized as it is identified by a numbered tracking ring on its leg. The formats sold in trays carry a numbered control label with the Eusko Label identifier.
This is a healthy, succulent meat with the genuine flavor of farmhouse chicken reared in the open air. The taste is more pronounced given the age of the meat. These are chickens which have roamed freely about the pastures, and therefore have a fibrous meat which is more closely attached to the bone.
Only birds which have the following characteristics can obtain the Eusko Label mark:
• They must be category A
• The dressed bird must be totally plucked. Only a certain amount of plumage is admitted on the head, and this for commercial purposes.
• The dressed bird is slightly elongated and harmoniously proportioned, with evident muscle development.
• The sternum has a slightly lengthwise curve and is somewhat pointed; from the side it is not very pronounced, although nor is it flat.
• The dressed bird must not have any broken or dislocated bones.
• Clear coloring, with an even golden-yellow tone.
• The skin must be unbroken, moist and finely-textured.
• Firm, juicy meat with the pronounced flavor characteristic of this breed.
• It must have an optimum degree of fat.
Traditional dressed bird with feet and head; dressed eviscerated bird with feet and head; dressed eviscerated bird without feet and head; in pieces (the authorized cuts must be defined for each campaign).
Production / Processing method
According to the regulation for the brand designated Basque Country farm-reared chicken/Euskal Baserriko Oilaskoa with the Eusko Label, the production system is as follows:
All the chicks must come from a single breed or from a single cross between breeds. In all cases this breed or cross must be approved by the Kalitatea Fundazioa Foundation. Each batch of chicks must be perfectly identified and be accompanied by an official certificate containing a description of its genetic origin.
The production units must take into account the factors of drainage, slope, prevailing winds, other nearby farms, possible health risks in the environment, etc., as well as the orientation and placement of the building in which the birds are reared and the materials used in its construction. This is in order to avoid any health risk and to guarantee the well-being of the animals and the quality of the end product.
The henhouses and access doors to the pasture (distributed on both façades of the hen-house) must comply with the characteristics stipulated in the regulation. All the henhouses must be surrounded by pasture. When the henhouses are located near each other, they must also be clearly delimited by means of a fence. The pasture must have the characteristics required in the regulation for the product. The conditions for rearing and handling on the poultry farms must allow the optimum development of the birds in order to obtain the desired quality. The use of any products or methods during the process which do not comply with the current regulations or which negatively affect the quality criteria for the birds is prohibited.
In principle, the entire poultry production on any one farm must be directed to rearing this product. Moreover the birds must all be of the same age, except for possible replacements of birds due to attrition which may occur during the first week of life of the batch. The chicks are reared in direct contact with the ground and roaming free in the pasture from birth, or at the latest from four weeks of age.
At the start of their life cycle the birds must be provided with a dry bed of between 6-10 cm in height all over the surface of the henhouse floors, made with either straw, pinewood shavings or similar (untreated wood), with a high capacity for absorption.
On each farm and for each productive cycle the minimum number of birds must be 500 and the maximum 6,000. The size of the production batch in each Production Unit must be a maximum of 1,300 birds. Strict hygiene must be maintained throughout the whole of the henhouse, and access is prohibited to other animals in the area. The cutting of nails and beaks is also prohibited.
Once the production cycle has ended and the animals have been sent to the slaughterhouse, the henhouses must be completely emptied. They are then cleaned, disinfected and cleared of insects, and subjected to a sanitation period which lasts a minimum of 14 days. The drinking and feeding troughs and all other farming utensils must also be properly cleaned, disinfected and cleared of insects.
The diet, free from GMOs, is based on cereals (minimum 70%), with over 60% corn. The type of diet and the portions must allow the harmonious development of the birds, without overfattening. The use of meal from animal origin is prohibited. For the four first months of rearing, the component products in the start-up diet must not contain any fatty additives.
During the processes of collection and transport, special care must be taken not to cause any injury to the birds and to guarantee their well-being. The time to transport the birds may not exceed two hours unless justified. The waiting area in the slaughterhouse must be kept clean and adequately ventilated.
The conditions for slaughter and butchering are the following: the birds are carefully stunned. The fowl must be totally drained of blood using the correct techniques; during the scalding process the times and temperatures must be monitored. The processing operations take place in the slaughterhouse in a room especially designed for this purpose. The temperature in this room must be below 12ºC.
Freezing of the dressed birds is prohibited. It must be packaged to ensure that the product is clearly visible, and is suitably protected and conserved. The product can only be commercialized in units for sale to the end consumer (CSU). The designs, packaging and labels must be approved by the Kalitatea Fundazioa Foundation before use.
Geography / Relief and climate
The Basque Country borders on the Cantabrian Sea and France to the north, the regions of Cantabria and Castile-Leon to the east, Castile-Leon and La Rioja to the south, and Navarre to the west. It is at the far east of the Cantabrian coast of the Iberian Peninsula and ends in the southern part of the Bay of Biscay. This region is located in southwest Europe in the space between the Aturri and Ebro rivers.
It has an area of 7,235 km2 and is divided into three provinces: Álava (3,037 km2), Vizcaya (2,217 km2) and Guipúzcoa (1,980 km2). There are distinct climatic areas in the Basque Country: the northern valleys, in Vizcaya and Guipúzcoa and also the valley of Ayala in Álava, where oceanic climate is predominant, with its wet weather all year round and moderate temperatures. The middle section has a more Continental Mediterranean climate, but with some influence of the northern oceanic one, this causes dry and warm summers and cold and snowy winters. The Ebro valley has a pure Continental Mediterranean climate, winters are cold and dry and summers very warm and dry, with precipitation peaking in spring and autumn.
All the chicks must come from a single breed or from a single cross between breeds.