Visiting the farm

How long does the tour take?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Usually about one hour

Is there a lot of walking involved?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          No, getting around is very easy, the farm doesn’t cover a huge area. People with walking frames or wheelchairs don’t have any problem.

What if it’s raining?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       No problem, water doesn’t lie around here… we’re on sand so it’s never muddy.  We also have under cover area in case it rains… plus an umbrella 🙂  But… we’re in the Mallee, rain is rarely a problem !  And did you know…Swan Hill boasts more sunshine hours than the Gold Coast !

What can we expect to see?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Something different from the usual tourist attraction….wait and see.  You’ll be surprised !

Can we get morning or afternoon tea…. or lunch?                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Sorry, groups of 10+ or coaches groups only. Sometimes you can twist our arm for a coffee 🙂  But you’re welcome to bring your own picnic.

What do you sell on farm?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Preserves, all made from organically grown farm produce.                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Fresh organic fruit when in season.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Frozen pheasant and guinea fowl… subject to availability.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       See out Products page for more.

Our birds

What species of pheasant is used for the table?
Contrary to popular belief, it is not the “English” pheasant that we eat. Nor is the pheasant eaten in England “English”. It is a Chinese Ringneck / Mongolian cross. All species of pheasant are Asian origin. A bit of trivia… they were discovered by Jason (of Argonauts fame) while on his quest for the Golden Fleece. He brought them back to Greece; the Romans tasted them and must have been impressed, as took them with them on their conquests, as part of their living larder. …. obviously a few escaped in England!

What do you feed your pheasants?
Farmed pheasants require a very carefully balanced, high protein diet. This is extremely difficult to maintain by feeding them solely on grains and natural vegetation. This has been tried on the farm and proved unsuccessful, as protein levels in grain fluctuate so much.
Our pheasants are now fed a locally milled pellet, made from locally grown cereals. A nutritionist, to ensure a correct balance of all necessary nutrients, formulates this diet.
The green feed that grows abundantly in the range pens also attracts insect life, a natural part of the high protein diet of pheasant in the wild.
The green feed and insect life also provide an “entertainment” factor for the birds, this is most important in raising pheasants, as cannibalism, resulting out of boredom, can be a problem.

Are pheasants fed growth promoters or antibiotics?
I can only speak for our own birds – definitely not. We avoid the use of any form of chemical on our farm and have adopted organic farming practices.
Antibiotics are not needed in our feed because risk of disease is extremely minimal, due to our location. The isolation of our farm (we have a 150 km buffer zone from any other poultry enterprise), and the hot, dry conditions of the Mallee are most inhospitable to any form of parasite or bacteria.
Also, game bird farming, being seasonal, allows the range pens to be empty for six months of the year.
Another guarantee that our birds are chemical free is that, when taking our birds for processing, we are required to sign a declaration every time, stating that our birds contain no chemical in any form. Dire consequences for false declarations!

Do pheasants need to be hung?
The purpose of hanging a bird is to tenderize it. Young farmed pheasant don’t need tenderizing. A wild bird of indiscriminate age most likely would benefit from hanging.

Should I be looking for a bird that is New York dressed?
New York dressed is the term used for a bird with the gut intact.
As it is illegal, Australia wide, to sell a bird with the gut in, you would probably have difficulty finding one.
Try our birds and my method of cooking “Crispy Skinned Pheasant Breast,” or my version of Delia Smith’s recipe for “Slow Braised Pheasant in Madeira” and I’m sure you won’t bother looking for, or wanting to deal with ” New York dressed”.

When I purchase a game bird, why does it still have its head on?

This is required for identification purposes.

What should I look for when purchasing a pheasant?
A good layer of fat under the skin, you’ll get better results. This fat layer also eliminates the need for barding or basting.

If pheasant have such a good fat cover, does this mean they aren’t suitable for people on low fat diets?
On the contrary – according to “The Joy of Cooking”- (Simon & Schuster – 1998) :-
“Pheasant and Guinea Fowl have 40% less calories than chicken and 60% less fat kilo for kilo.”
This statement is referring to the meat. The best eating pheasants should have a good layer of fat under the skin. This is essential for protecting and basting the delicate flesh during cooking; it also adds to the flavour. Fat can always be removed or skimmed off after cooking.

Which makes best eating – a hen or a cock bird?
After supplying chefs from all over Australia for several years I can say that most never state a preference. Their choice is generally governed by size and how they are planning to serve the bird, rather than by gender.
As our birds are farmed and processed at between 16 – 20 weeks of age, I’m sure gender makes little or no difference to their eating quality…I’d challenge anyone to pick the difference.

Fresh or Frozen?
Although game birds are only available fresh in Australia between March and August, the freezer is very kind to them. Pheasant in particular, if packaged in barrier bags and stored correctly (-15 °C), will keep for 2 to 3 years without developing any “been-in-the-freezer-too-long” taste. Some chefs actually prefer to use a bird that has been frozen, as freezing does actually tenderize the meat.
Again, I’d challenge anyone to pick the difference between a fresh or frozen bird after it has been cooked.

What do you put in your sausages? (Sorry our sausages are no longer available)… but one day they may be back on the menu !
I love to answer this question because people who ask it really mean, “What other meat or product do you add as “filler”? I proudly answer, “Nothing, it’s all top grade pheasant.”
We’re lucky to have a constant supply of two year old birds that are at the end of their optimum laying period, but at their peak for sausages because of the amount of fat on them. This means that we don’t have to add any pork fat as would usually be the case with a game meat sausage.
Fresh apple is added….pheasant and apple being traditionally great partners, fresh organically grown herbs (this can vary, depending on what’s in season) fresh garlic and freshly ground spices & sea salt. A small amount of rice flour (gluten free) & water are also added to bind the ingredients…and that’s it! No preservative, no pre-mixes.
Unfortunately our sausages generally aren’t available through retail outlets as they sold frozen, due to the absence of preservative.

Why are pheasants so expensive?
Pheasant are a wild bird that can never be domesticated, therefore are very difficult to raise and manage successfully.
As Ian (my husband), always says, “Pheasant are born with a death wish… if there’s a way to kill itself a pheasant will find it.”
Although this fact contributes to their high price, it is certainly not the main reason. Other factors are:-
-Their very low feed conversion rate. It takes 5 kgs of feed to produce 1 kg meat. Compared to a chicken, which converts 2 kgs of feed to 1 kg meat.
-Their specially formulated, high protein feed is very expensive
-Their growth rate is slow. They are processed at 16 -20 weeks.
A chicken is processed at 6 -10 weeks.

How long will fresh birds keep?
The excellent keeping qualities of fresh pheasant and partridge are well known to anyone who has had much to do with them.
Most chefs will “age” the birds before they use them. This ageing develops the flavour, as it does with most meat. If you’re going to do this, use the refrigerator and remove the bird from its plastic bag. Labeling laws require a “Best before” date; with fresh game birds this date will be two weeks from processing. If you are purchasing our cryovaced portions, this date is four weeks from process.

Have I missed anything?
Please email me – info@gamebirds.com.au
or telephone me on (03) 5030 2648

Ros Harbour
Olson Game Birds
Swan Hill, Vic