All of Turk's Poultry 220 workers and contractors can be proud of the company's latest wins in the 2018 Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards: one gold and three silver medals.

"We entered only five products, so that's a pretty good result," said managing director Ron Turk.

On the awards night Turk was pleasantly surprised when organisers also awarded this company the Spirit of New Zealand award for their emphasis on staff welfare, community support, sustainability and their innovative approach to new products.

The award is given to a company that exemplifies the Kiwi spirit of hard work and innovation, organisers said.

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The Foxton poultry business has been working on new flavours and innovative packaging recently as part of continuing growth. The business has six contractors who supply the shed, where the chickens are reared and fed on corn, rather than wheat.

Mr Turk said the feed resulted in a darker meat that cooks quicker, and is a little sweeter than that of chickens raised on wheat.

"Sixty per cent of our chickens are free range. They grow up in sheds that are open to the outside, day and night. The chickens can come and go as they please, and have somewhere to hide when it is hot, cold, raining, or windy. The corn is GE free and the chickens are not genetically modified."

Three of the six contractors are Turk family members. "Contractors supply the shed and do the work. We supply the chickens, and the feed. We use local contractors as much as possible. It doesn't always work out, but all our grain is grown less than an hour from here."

Feed, hygiene and animal welfare are closely monitored.

Judges of the 2018 Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards said they were excited by the taste and texture of the corn-fed free range chicken and thought the flavours and packaging were great too.

The Butterflied Srirarcha Chilli and Lime chicken was the stand-out, winning gold with the marinade flavours complementing the meat.

The Butterflied Filipino Pinoy Barbeque Chicken, the Whole Chicken and Chicken Nibbles were each awarded silver medals.

Mr Turk said, "We're very happy with the results. Everyone in the business has put in a big effort getting our new branding, packaging and innovative products up and running and it's fantastic to see that recognised by an independent panel of food savvy judges.

"The welfare of our chickens is non-negotiable and all our farms are independently audited to ensure they meet all requirements. Our chicken has no added hormones, no artificial colours or flavours and no preservatives.

"Our family has been raising corn-fed chickens in the Horowhenua since 1966."
Originally Mr Turk's father started farming chickens for eggs, way back in 1966.

"He was a milkman in Wellington and discovered all his mates who had poultry farms and supplied eggs had much bigger and better cars. So, without any experience, he bought a farm in Foxton and soon had 100,000 egg layers.

Twenty-three years ago we began with the meat and now the eggs are about 10 per cent of our turnover."

Mr Turk said by the end of the year the egg production would have been wound down completely. The Turk's Poultry chickens are from a New Zealand hatchery, and are the Cobb 500 breed.