Many of the kitchen gardeners I visit in Canberra and surrounds keep chooks, though I don't come across many cows. Nevertheless, a 2001 study by the University of Leicester School of Psychology should interest all of us.
For 12 hours a day music was played to a herd of 1000 Holstein Friesian cattle at a dairy in Lincolnshire and an agricultural college in Humberside, UK. Milk yield increased 3 per cent. T
he dairy cows produced more milk when listening to REM's Everybody Hurts or Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, which alleviated stress, than when subjected to The Beatles Back in the USSR.
In 2017, the University of Bristol found hens laid an extra egg per week when listening to opera on Classic FM so, for World Egg Day, they developed a seven-egg box in a limited edition of 250 boxes which were given away at Waterloo Station. The best music had 100 beats per minute.
Did Australian cow herders and chook keepers have an influence on the recent ABC FM Classic 100 composers voting results?
I asked Greg Palethorpe of Hall who has a 20ha farm and 1500 hens. Palethorpe married into the Brown family, one of the original families which settled the Hall region, where they did free range egg farming and egg distribution for many years as R.H. Brown and Sons. Greg and his wife Kerrie run Farmer Brown's Free Range Eggs, named in recognition of that history and the farmland is still owned by Greg's father-in-law.
The chooks are Brown Layers which most people call Isa Brown's, but technically they are Bond's Browns. On average they produce 7500 eggs a week. These are available via honesty boxes in Hall and O'Connor, Canberra Region Farmers Market on Saturday mornings at EPIC, Ziggy's Fresh at Belconnen and Fyshwick Markets, Choku Bai Jo in North Lyneham and Curtin and Lost River Produce in Dickson.
The happy hens are given layer pellets, grass and insects but they also get up to 500kg of scrap food from the businesses Palethrope supplies.
"This gives the hens a high quality source of food that would otherwise end up in landfill and consequently become greenhouse gases," he says.
"I would really love to see more (all) of Canberra's waste food be diverted from landfill by being used as a valuable livestock feed."
So to the question of music. Palethorpe says, "The chooks don't have regular music playing, however on the weekends when the whole family are egg collecting, the chickens are often cuddled and serenaded to by our two girls."
His favourite dish is poached super fresh eggs with avocado on sourdough but says Kerrie makes awesome vanilla ice cream.
If you eat brunch at Canberra cafes, the poached eggs look as though they have been cooked in a small sock. Julia Child, Jacques Pepin and Jill Dupleix stress online that eggs must be super fresh because albumen then holds its shape better. Child makes a hole in the large end of the eggshell using a pin to release air inside. Adding salt and white vinegar to the water are recommended.
Kerrie says she originally used a vanilla ice cream recipe that was in the Kitchen Aid booklet that came with the ice cream maker attachment.
However that has recently gone missing but she has found that the Donna Hay version from Modern Classics (2003) works just as well. Kerrie says the ice cream is beautiful on its own but is also a great base for adding in blackberries, raspberries and cherries when in season - you could try Queensland strawberries now.
Vanilla ice cream
1 cup milk
2 cups single or pouring cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
6 egg yolks
cup caster sugar
Step 1. Place the milk, cream and vanilla bean in a saucepan over medium heat and heat, stirring occasionally, until hot but not boiling. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Step 2. Place the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk until thick and pale. Remove the vanilla bean from the milk mixture and slowly pour over the egg yolk and sugar mixture while whisking well to combine.
Step 3. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and stir over a low heat for four minutes or until the custard is thick and coats the back of a spoon.
Step 4. Set aside to cool then place in an ice-cream maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions for thick and scoopable ice cream.
Makes 1 litre.