Just prior to Christmas last year we received a call here at Sustainable Table from a Brisbane based burger chain called Burger Urge. Being from Melbourne we had admittedly never heard of them, but they are actually quite big in Queensland, with 20 stores across the state and growing.

Burger Urge were contacting us to say that they would like to donate $10,000 to support our work as part of their commitment to improving their supply chain and supporting farmers and organisations educating Australians on food system issues. Well it’s safe to say we nearly fell off our chairs!

Not only is $10,000 an incredibly generous donation to give out of the blue, but larger food chains had always been somewhat elusive to us when it came to having discussions about putting an end to factory farming and supporting both free range farming systems and increasing their offering of vegetarian and vegan fare.

We have approached a few restaurant chains in the past as part of our Give a Fork! campaign and the responses that came back were always along the lines of “We would love to source free range meat but our customers aren’t prepared to pay for it” or “Our supply chain is so detailed and large, that any ingredient change takes months to implement.”

Burger Urge were contacting us to say that they would like to donate $10,000 to support our work as part of their commitment to improving their supply chain and supporting farmers and organisations educating Australians on food system issues.

For Burger Urge this has been the opposite. They believe a more ethical approach is what their customers want and so their first step towards achieving this has been to switch to free range eggs and chicken.

For those who are interested, they source their eggs for burgers and mayonnaise from Sunny Queen Free Range Eggs, which meets the voluntary Model Code of Practice set by the CSIRO of an outdoor stocking density of 1,500 birds per hectare (this is in stark contrast to the more recent and controversial legally binding definition which allows producers to be called ‘free range’ even with an outdoor stocking density of up to 10,000 birds per hectare. Consumer group CHOICE and many animal activists deem this to be unacceptable). Burger Urge source their free range chicken from Lilydale, which was visited and featured in a recent documentary on SBS by Matthew Evans called For the Love of Meat. Here Matthew looked at the intensive chicken farming industry in Australia, which sees around 500 million chickens each year raised indoors in sheds/factory farms where they never see the light of day.

We appreciate that this move to source free range chicken and eggs may still have its detractors amongst those who advocate for small-scale pastured chicken and eggs to be the only definition of free range. And although we are huge supporters of this way of life and farming, we also believe that we need to include large retailers in the conversation and provide them with options that meet their sourcing requirements if we are to see any meaningful change in our food system. So whilst we wholeheartedly encourage consumers, families, smaller cafes and restaurants to engage with their local farms through farmers’ markets and direct relationships we also believe it is equally important to applaud those making a transition away from factory farming at the other end of the scale.

Gorgeous Robert Gordon pottery and even better salad inside.

Oh and did we mention that Burger Urge offers some awesome vegetarian and vegan burgers, so there’s something for everyone! And we were rather chuffed to see that they source their salad bowls from Robert Gordon who have been making ceramics locally in Melbourne for over 60 years. Robert Gordon kindly sponsored our last book Seasonal Regional by donating all their incredible wares for our photo shoots, which makes this connection a beautiful turn of fate.

We’d like to express our gratitude to Burger Urge not only for taking a chance in supporting our work, which is a tough slog to fund, but for showing that just because you’re big doesn’t mean you have to compromise your values. Here’s to more and more businesses like this starting to take notice of what their customers want.