New Blog!

With this post, we are for all intents and purposes shutting down the blog (if it can even be called that) portion of this website.  That is because we have started a new blog, which we are calling Agrarian Adventures, that follows our farming year.  We intend to publish a post each week, changing throughout the seasons, with what we hope is more detail than one might find in a typical Facebook update.  (We don’t do Facebook, anyway.)

This site will be restructured a bit to be solely our farm’s website, with information on what we produce, how we produce it, and where we sell it.

So, go on, check out the new blog!

2016 Poultry CSA

Thanks to much positive feedback from our 2015 Poultry CSA members and our customers at Farmers Market of the Ozarks, we are again offering a Poultry CSA for the 2016 season. We have changed things up a bit this year. First, we are now offering multiple shares for you to choose from. Our aim is that this will better allow you to select a share based on your own consumption patterns and one that best fits your budget. Second, we have added two new pickup locations for your convenience. Third, rather than aiming for a certain poundage each month, we are focusing on filling shares with a certain number of birds–though we give target weights of each. We are working with living creatures, after all, and we simply can’t guarantee that the birds will be at a certain weight at a time ordained by us. Fourth, we have done away with the discount for signing up for a CSA share. We came to realize that offering a discount was simply not financially viable for us. We set our prices based on our costs of production and a reasonable return on our time, not based on what “the market” might bear, and in the end we just have no room to reduce our prices. After all, our need to earn a modest living becomes no less just because our customers pay for their goods in advance. We thank you for understanding.

We are limiting the total number of birds of each variety we are raising this year, as we are a small farm and our commitment to providing the best food possible requires that we produce it in small numbers. It is therefore to your benefit to get your order in as soon as possible to guarantee your place in one of our CSAs.

About our Poultry

At Providence Farm we raise exclusively heritage breeds of poultry. There are myriad reasons why we have selected these breeds, but the long and short of it is that our heritage birds are healthier, livelier, and in the end just plain better tasting than any others you will find locally. Of this we are confident. Our slow-growing birds are raised on fresh pasture, allowed to forage freely and supplemented exclusively with freshly-ground non-GMO grains, then are hand-processed in small batches on our farm. This ensures that the utmost care is taken from start to finish, resulting in a truly superior product.

Our CSA shares are designed for the adventurous eater and cook. By participating, you will receive a variety of poultry species in a variety of ages and sizes, giving you the opportunity to experience first-hand the seasonality of meat production and allowing you to consume poultry the way very few people can nowadays. Where once meat birds were prepared using different cooking methods at different times of the year to reflect the inherent differences in the birds, in today’s world of industrial sameness and cheap throwaway commodity poultry such differences no longer existexcept with our old-fashioned heritage breeds.

Why a CSA?

There are many advantages of the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) model, a few of which we will briefly touch on. One, it facilitates seasonal production and consumption, which is the backbone of good land stewardship and sustainable farming, and consequently sustainable cultures and communities. This benefits everyone. Two, more directly, it is mutually beneficial for farmer and consumer alike. We, the farmers, receive capital for our production up front, at the beginning of the season, allowing us to produce good food without going into debt and without the persistent worry of finding a market for our products. You, the consumer are assured your share of delicious, sustainably-produced food from our farm. Three, it initiates a definite relationship between farmer and eater, providing a direct connection to the farm–indeed, to the land itself–and giving a more in-depth look at how your food is raised. Our goal is for this to be the beginning of a lasting farmer-eater partnership, not a mere business transaction.

The Birds through the Year

The season starts in May with our tender and delicious poussin, or “spring chickens.” You can think of these as “Cornish hens,” though we prefer the French term to further differentiate them from what you’ll find at the supermarket. The poussin (pronounced “poo-SAHN”) are 8 to 9 weeks in age and weigh approximately 1 lb. each, a comfortable serving size for an average adult.

In June the remaining chickens will have roughly doubled in size, and are now young “broilers” harvested at around 12 weeks of age and weighing in the ballpark of 2 lb. each. The term “broiler” hearkens back to the days before the advent of industrial chicken production when birds of this age were deemed perfect for hot, fast cooking under the broiler or on the grill.

By July the chickens will be at their prime, ready to be put to a myriad of delicious uses. These would be best known as “fryers,” weighing around 3 lb. each at 16 to 18 weeks of age.

The chickens in the August would be known as “roasters,” the last stop in seasonal chicken production. These birds will be approximately 20 weeks old and will weigh in at about 4 lb. each, the perfect centerpiece for a classic Sunday roast.

September will feature our beautiful dark-meated guinea fowl, a relative of the pheasant with a rich, full flavor reminiscent of game birds. Our chickens are delicious, but you might forget them entirely after a taste of guinea.

By October colder weather will be on its way, the perfect time to enjoy our always-popular Muscovy ducks. Muscovies are known for their robust dark meat, more akin to beef than poultry, and make beautiful charcuterie (such as duck leg confit or duck breast prosciutto).

In November you will feast on one of our beautiful, old-fashioned, slow-grown heritage turkeys, featuring breeds such as Bourbon Red, Blue Slate, and Norfolk Black. These are the birds of yesteryear and are about as far from a Butterball as one can get. You’ll never look at turkey the same way again.

What better way to celebrate in December than with a pasture-raised heritage goose as the centerpiece to an old-fashioned Dickensian Christmas? These birds graze our pastures from mid-spring through late fall before being plumped up on non-GMO grains in preparation for holiday feasting.

Weights and Availability

 

Bird

 

Avg. wt.

Approximate

Available date*

Poussin 1 lb. May 14
Broiler chicken 2 lb. June 11
Fryer chicken 3 lb. July 9
Roaster chicken 4 lb. August 6
Guinea fowl 2.5 lb. September 17
Muscovy duck (hen) 4 lb. October 15
Muscovy duck (drake) 6 lb. October 15
Heritage turkey (hen) 7.5 lb. November 22
Heritage turkey (tom) 13 lb. November 22
Goose 8 lb. December 22

*Please note that the available dates given are only approximate, and may vary a week or two in either direction; we will contact you when your birds are ready.

 

 The Share Options

We have three options for you this year: (1) The Poultry CSA – Half Share, (2) The Poultry CSA – Full Share, and (3) The A La Carte CSA.

 · The Poultry CSA – Half Share & Full Share ·

The Poultry CSA is ideal for those who want to enjoy the full breadth of the seasonal poultry offerings from our farm. Each month’s share will come complete with a newsletter containing information on the birds offered that month, photos, cooking tips, and other interesting bits. Amounts included in the Half Share and Full Share are as follows:

    Half Share   Full Share
Month Bird No.   No.
May poussin 4   10
June Broiler chicken 2   4
July Fryer chicken 2   3
August Roaster chicken 2   2
September Guinea fowl 2   4
October Muscovy duck 2*   4*
November Heritage turkey 1†   1†
December Goose 1   1

* The Half Share includes one drake (approximately 6 lbs.) and one hen (approximately 4 lbs.). The Full Share includes two drakes and two hens.

† The CSA price is based on a hen turkey averaging 7.5 lbs. in weight. If you prefer a larger bird, you may upgrade to a tom turkey averaging 13 lbs. for an additional fee of approximately $20-30, depending on actual weight.

The Half Share is priced at $315 for the May through December season.

The Full Share is priced at $495 for the May through December season.

If you find that the number of birds in either share isn’t enough for your expected needs, you can upgrade to a larger share (if applicable), purchase a second (or third, etc.) share, or add the specific birds you’d like a la carte (see below).

  · The A La Carte CSA ·

In an effort to simplify our marketing and to better ensure that our regular customers are able to purchase the poultry they want, we are instituting an a la carte ordering scheme this year. Though the structure is a bit different, we like to think of this as fitting firmly within the CSA concept, just a more relaxed version. The A La Carte CSA allows you to customize your share, omitting birds you may not want and stocking up on birds you are particularly looking forward to, while also allowing you to spread the associated costs throughout the year.

The Poultry CSA – Half Share and Full Share members can order a la carte any number of any variety they like, with no minimum. For those signing up for only The A La Carte CSA we are requiring a $150 minimum total order. Average weight, price per pound, availability dates, and required deposit are included in the attached form.

Here’s how this works: You print the attached form and fill it out with the number of each variety you would like and send it back to us with the appropriate down payment. The balance for each bird will be due upon pickup, with the exact final cost depending on the actual weight of the birds.

What if I don’t want an entire CSA share?

One of our primary goals as a small farm is to establish real, lasting relationships with our customers, the eaters of the food we produce. The CSA concept is not the only way to achieve this, but it is a great way, and it is our preferred method. If you only want a few birds per year, we encourage you to explore The A La Carte CSA and crunch the numbers to see what happens. For example, you can reach the $150.00 minimum with an order of four poussin, one fryer chicken, one roaster chicken, two guinea fowl, and one tom turkey; or with two broiler chickens, four fryer chickens, one hen duck, and one hen turkey.

If you still wish not to participate in any of our CSA options, you may yet have a chance at scoring the bird or birds you’d like. Any remaining poultry not distributed through the three CSAs will be sold as available on a first come, first served basis.

Pickup Locations & Payment Info

We are offering four pickup options this year:

  1. On-farm. This will not be on any set day of the week, but will be flexible to best fit your schedule. We are located approximately 35 minutes from east Springfield, easily accessible from either I-44 or Hwy 60. The on-farm pickup option gives you the opportunity to witness changes on the farm throughout the season, watching the birds, calves, and gardens grow, and gives you first-hand insight into exactly how we produce your food.
  1. At Farmers Market of the Ozarks. Pickup will be on Saturday mornings, from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm. This should be convenient for many of you, and gives you the opportunity to simultaneously support other local farmers.
  1. At Millsap Farm. Pickup will be on a Tuesday afternoon each month, from 4:00 to 6:00 pm, to coincide with the Millsap Farm veggie CSA pickup. This location is intended for those of you who are Millsap Farm CSA members. A $40.00 delivery premium applies. (November and December pickup will be at Farmers Market of the Ozarks.)
  1. At Urban Roots Farm. Pickup will be on a Tuesday afternoon each month, from 3:30 to 5:30 pm, to coincide with the Urban Roots Farm veggie CSA pickup. This location is intended for those of you who are Urban Roots Farm CSA members. A $40.00 delivery premium applies. (November and December pickup will be at Farmers Market of the Ozarks.)

Please remember that pickup dates are not set ahead of time, but will depend upon the state of the birds as they reach the desired weights. We will contact you each month when your birds are ready for pickup.

For The Poultry CSA – Half Share and The Poultry CSA – Full Share members, payment is due in full before the beginning of the season. Your spot is not secured until payment is received. For The A La Carte CSA members, the relevant deposit is due with your order. See the attached form for details.

 

To sign up, simply print out the attached forms, fill them out, and mail them back to us with your payment.

 

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the CSA shares, please call us: (417) 840-5093. We will also respond to e-mail, but our response will not be as timely.

2016 CSA Order Form

2016 A La Carte Order Form

Early Spring on the Farm

The following photos come from a farm walk on March 18, 2015.  The day was cool and damp, misty, and one of my absolute favorite kind of days.  There is hope and renewal everywhere, the signs that spring is well on its way, though it’s not here yet.  As I finish writing this in the first of April, it’s amazing how much has changed since these photos were taken.

 

The other farming -- Pleasant, meandering cow paths on our side of the fence; rigid, imposing tire-tracks on the other.

The other farming — Pleasant, meandering cow paths on our side of the fence; rigid, imposing tire-tracks on the other.

The creek, just before it flows onto the neighbor’s land.  Our first summer here, in 2012, was a summer of historic drought, and the creek was dry for much of the year.  With more moderate years in 2013 and 2014, the wet-weather creek has had water almost year-round.

The creek, just before it flows onto the neighbor’s land. Our first summer here, in 2012, was a summer of historic drought, and the creek was dry for much of the year. With more moderate years in 2013 and 2014, the wet-weather creek has had water almost year-round.

Grasses and clover, greening up.  A few short weeks and the grass will be tall enough to graze, and the cows will be turned back out to pasture, much to their delight.

Grasses and clover, greening up. A few short weeks and the grass will be tall enough to graze, and the cows will be turned back out to pasture, much to their delight.

There’s a lot of nice seasoned oak firewood tied up in this handy bridge across the creek in the woods.

There’s a lot of nice seasoned oak firewood tied up in this handy bridge across the creek in the woods.

The first green leaves in the woods, tiny though they be, belong to the wild gooseberry bushes.

The first green leaves in the woods, tiny though they be, belong to the wild gooseberry bushes.

Clustered buds of the blackhaw tree, which open up into broccoli-like flowers come mid-spring, before yielding to dark, sweet fruit clusters by fall.

Early buds on a yet-to-be-identified tree back in the woods.

Multiflora rose, an introduced species originally intended as a hedge plant for a ‘living fence,’ is one we must fight nearly continuously.  It does, however, have a certain beauty about it.

Multiflora rose, an introduced species originally intended as a hedge plant for a ‘living fence,’ is one we must fight nearly continuously. It does, however, have a certain beauty about it.

The old, worn-down wooden gate covering the ‘water gap’ where the old creek bed enters the farm from the back.

The old, worn-down wooden gate covering the ‘water gap’ where the old creek bed enters the farm from the back.

The surprisingly purple canes of the wild black raspberry plants.  It’s always a pleasant surprise to stumble across the ripe berries, so soft and tender they nearly fall apart in one’s hand.  They are, of course, best eaten on the spot.

The surprisingly purple canes of the wild black raspberry plants. It’s always a pleasant surprise to stumble across the ripe berries, so soft and tender they nearly fall apart in one’s hand. They are, of course, best eaten on the spot.

Showing the paths two chicken shelters took during the last batch of 2014, the value of chicken manure as fertilizer now readily apparent as the grass turns greener.  Our hope is that after a few years of improving the fertility of our soils via rotational grazing and multiple livestock species, such sights will be rare indeed, as the soil will be so fertile the difference the chickens make is not nearly as apparent as it currently is.

Showing the paths two chicken shelters took during the last batch of 2014, the value of chicken manure as fertilizer now readily apparent as the grass turns greener. Our hope is that after a few years of improving the fertility of our soils via rotational grazing and multiple livestock species, such sights will be rare indeed, as the soil will be so fertile the difference the chickens make is not nearly as apparent as it currently is.

The pigs have certainly done their job this winter, clearing, manuring, and generally preparing the garden for the next year’s crops.

The pigs have certainly done their job this winter, clearing, manuring, and generally preparing the garden for the next year’s crops.

View of the homestead, overlooking the fledgling orchard.

View of the homestead, overlooking the fledgling orchard.

2015 Providence Farm Poultry CSA Share

White Plymouth Rock cockerel

White Plymouth Rock cockerel

We are very excited to announce that 2015 will see the inaugural season of our poultry CSA share, what we hope is the first of many! Our pastured poultry CSA share runs from May through December, and will consist of approximately 12 lbs. of meat per month, packaged as whole birds, for a total of approximately 100 lbs.

At Providence Farm, we raise exclusively heritage breeds of poultry. While I could write at length about how and why we have chosen these breeds (you can read more on our Why Heritage Breeds page), the long and short of it is that our heritage birds are healthier, livelier, and in the end just plain better tasting than any others you will find locally. Of this we are confident. Our slow-growing birds are raised on fresh pasture, allowed to forage freely and supplemented exclusively with non-GMO grains, and are processed in small batches on our farm. This ensures that the utmost care is taken from start to finish, resulting in a truly superior product.

The poultry share is designed for the adventurous eater and cook. By participating, you will receive a variety of poultry species in a variety of ages and sizes, giving you the opportunity to experience first-hand the seasonality of meat production and allowing you to consume poultry the way very few people can nowadays. Where once meat chickens were prepared using different methods at different times of the year to reflect the inherent differences in the birds, in today’s world of industrial sameness and cheap throwaway commodity chicken such differences no longer exist—except with our old-fashioned heritage breeds. Each month’s share will come complete with a newsletter containing information on the birds offered that month, photos, cooking tips, and other interesting info.

Why a CSA?

There are many advantages of the CSA model, a few of which we will briefly touch on. One, it facilitates seasonal production and consumption, which is the backbone of good land stewardship and sustainable farming, and consequently sustainable cultures and communities. This benefits everyone. Two, more directly, it is mutually beneficial for farmer and consumer alike. We, the farmers, get capital for our production up front, at the beginning of the season, allowing us to produce good food without going into debt and without the persistent worry of finding a market for our product. You, the consumer, are rewarded for your up front payment with a discount off the retail price, plus a discount on additional purchases at our market booth or from the farm. You also have the guarantee of good food and a darn good reason to expand your kitchen repertoire. Three, it gives the customer a direct connection to the farm, giving the customer a more in-depth look at how his or her food is raised, and facilitates a longstanding relationship between farmer and eater.

As often as possible, the offerings of any given month will be fresh, not frozen. This gives you the opportunity to prepare and consume a truly fresh meat product, as well as the option to freeze what you want for later use. Even for the items you freeze, we strongly recommend that you thaw and use them as soon as possible to experience the seasonal nature of the individual birds.

The CSA Season

The season starts in May with a share chock full of our tender and delicious poussin, or “spring chickens.” You can think of these as “Cornish hens,” though we prefer the French term to further differentiate them from what you’ll find at the supermarket. The poussin are 8 to 9 weeks in age and weigh approximately 1 lb. each, a comfortable serving size for an average adult.

In June the main batch of chickens will have grown a fair bit bigger, and the share will reflect this, with young “broilers” harvested at around 12 weeks of age and weighing in the ballpark of 2 lb. each. This terminology hearkens back to the days prior to the advent of industrial chicken production when birds of this age were deemed perfect for hot, fast cooking under the broiler or on the grill.

By July the chickens will be at their peak of growth, the optimal time for processing. These would be best known as “fryers,” and will weigh in at around 3 lb. each at 16 to 18 weeks of age. As now is summer grilling season, we will also include a few more of our poussin to round out the share.

The chickens in the August share will be “fryers” as in the month before. But we’ll finally be able to add some species variety by including a couple of pond-raised Muscovy ducks in the mix. Muscovies are known for their rich dark meat, more akin to beef than poultry.

The September chickens will be “fryers” once again. Though we doubt you’ll get tired of these delicious birds, we’ll throw in something unique to keep things interesting. We’ll make no guarantees at the outset, but if all goes to plan this will be a couple of guinea fowl, a bird indigenous to Africa and commonly eaten in France and Britain. Guineas are similar to chickens but with more dark meat and a richer, fuller flavor reminiscent of game birds.

By October colder weather will be on its way, and the month’s share will reflect this. The chickens will be large birds known as “roasters,” processed at 20 or more weeks of age and weighing in at 4 to 5 lb. each. These make a great centerpiece for a belly-filling autumn meal. The share will be rounded out by a couple of stewing hens, retirees from our egg-laying flock, which are delicious in slow-cooked dishes like chicken and dumplings.

November’s share will consist entirely of one of our beautiful, old-fashioned, slow-growing heritage breed turkeys. These are the birds of yesteryear and are about as far from a Butterball as one can get. You’ll never look at turkey the same way again.

What better way to celebrate in December than with a pasture-raised heritage goose as the centerpiece to an old-fashioned Dickensian Christmas? If you’re not feeling up to roasting a goose, we will be more than happy to substitute a turkey, a couple of big roasting chickens, or even a larger drake duck, subject to availability (though, naturally, we’d love for you to try the goose). Depending on the size of the goose, the remainder of the share will be filled by your choice of chicken (poussin, broilers, fryers, or roasters).

Thus ends the poultry CSA season. We will aim to keep our freezers full of chickens and other poultry through the winter, to keep us selling until the first batch of the next spring is ready, and because we’re confident that after a few months of eating our delicious slow-growing heritage birds you’ll be rather reluctant to go back to whatever you were eating before.

The chart below displays approximate amounts and weights received per month. The numbers in parenthesis are the number of individual birds of each offering.

Bird #1 Lb. Bird #2 Lb. Total Lb.
May Poussin (12) 12     12
June Broiler (6) 12     12
July Fryer (4) 12     12
August Fryer (2) 6 Duck (2) 8 14
September Fryer (2) 6 Guinea (2) 5 11
October Roaster (2) 8 Hen (2) 4 12
November Turkey (1) 12     12
December Goose (1) 8 Hens/Roaster 4 12
97

 Cost & Pickup Time

Cost for the poultry share is $475.00 for approximately 100 lbs. of poultry meat. That’s 15% off the retail price of the component items purchased separately. In addition, by becoming a CSA member you receive 10% off all additional poultry purchases from our farmers market booth or from the farm. Though the first CSA pickup isn’t until May, the farm work and expenses will start by March at the latest. Therefore, we respectfully ask for at least half payment by March 15th, with the balance due by the May pickup, though we can work with you on a payment schedule if need be.

Please make checks payable to:
Providence Farm

5147 Pleasant Hill Rd.

Seymour, MO 65746

Pickup is the first Saturday of each month, at our booth at Farmers Market of the Ozarks, from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm.

Heritage Turkeys available for pre-order

Turkeys roaming pasture, October 2014

Turkeys roaming pasture, October 2014

This year we are growing out a small batch of heritage breed turkeys for your Thanksgiving table. These guys (and gals) were hatched out back in May and have free range of the entire farm, foraging for all sorts of goodies, and are supplemented with only non-GMO grains. This year we are raising the Bourbon Red, Norfolk Black, Blue Slate, and Royal Palm breeds. (You can see them roaming one of the pastures in the picture above.) Like our heritage breed chickens, these turkeys take nearly twice as long to grow out as their fast-growing industrial counterparts, resulting in amazing flavor and texture. Expected dressed weights will be around the 12 to 15 lb. range, and we are expecting the price to be $5.00 to $5.50 per pound. (We’ll know for certain once they’re processed and final costs are tallied.) You can reserve yours with a $10 deposit. This will be applied to your total price, with the balance due upon pickup. Pickup date is not yet confirmed, but we are expecting it to be Tuesday, November 25th, at the special pre-Thanksgiving market at Farmers Market of the Ozarks. We’ll let you know for certain once it’s settled.  You can contact us for more details, or to place an order.

Roosting in the gnarly oak.

Roosting in the gnarly oak.

Meat Thrift — Three Meals from One Chicken

Here at Providence Farm, we only sell our chickens whole.  When folks ask if we have boneless skinless chicken breasts, we smile and kindly inform them that the breasts grow on the rest of the chicken, that they can have the breast meat as it comes: attached to the wings, thighs, drumsticks, and back.

Perhaps this is poor business practice.  Likely it is off-putting to customers who prefer to minimize their contact with raw meat.  But as farmers (and home cooks) we feel that comfort in the kitchen, knowledge of where food comes from, and ability to fully utilize such ingredients is vitally important for a vibrant, healthy local food community.  As such, we are committed to educating customers on exactly how to use a whole chicken, and how to get the most for your money.  It is in that spirit that we offer this post.

First, I’d like to offer up a few words about meat thrift generally.  Or rather, I’d like to offer up someone else’s words about meat thrift, as his writing is more eloquent, and certainly more effective, than my own.  The following quote comes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, excerpted from his River Cottage Meat Book:

Meat thrift is all about respect.  Respect for the animals that have died to feed you.  Respect for the farmers who have (assuming you’ve chosen your meat well) worked tirelessly to keep those animals healthy and contented, so their meat is as good as it can be.  And respect for the whole history of animal husbandry and meat gastronomy–endeavors that  until recently scorned any practice that was wasteful of the livestock on which they depended.

So how, exactly, can you be thrifty with a whole chicken (or any meat bird, for that matter)?  I won’t bother with specific recipes, as they are endless, but I will provide a general method for getting the most bang for your buck.

First meal: Cook the bird.  At our house we tend to roast chickens whole (look for a “how-to” page specific to heritage birds, coming soon), but the bird could also be braised or stewed, cut up and roasted, fried, grilled, you name it.  Assuming you’re not planning on half a chicken per person (and you probably shouldn’t: spending your food dollars on lesser quantities of great meat, rather than piles of industrial slop, is a good idea), this will feed up to six adults: two breasts, two thighs, two drumsticks.

Second meal: Pick off the bits of meat from the remaining carcass.  If you didn’t use all six larger pieces mentioned above, pick those as well.  There is a surprising amount of really tasty meat tucked in along a chicken’s backbone, so don’t miss that.  With these bits you have plenty of options: stir-fry, a replacement for ham in a sort of pasta carbonara, lunch salad with chicken sprinkled on top, soup, fried rice, pot pie, and on and on.

Third meal: Make a stock.  For this you will need the carcass, neck, skin, and bones from previous meals: in other words everything you haven’t used yet.  Some folks take stock-making pretty seriously, with specific quantities of this and that and the other, but our method is more laid-back.  Fill a stock pot with water, throw in the chicken carcass and whatever else is left, and if you like add in some veggies like onions, carrots, celery, and garlic, and perhaps some herbs (fresh or dried).  Don’t forget the salt and pepper.  (Vinegar is also a good idea–for an informative article on the benefits of bone broth, check out this page from the Weston A. Price Foundation.)  Then set it to simmer for maybe three or four hours–though it won’t hurt to go longer, say overnight–and when it’s done strain it.  To do this we set a large colander atop a large metal mixing bowl and pour (carefully!–it’s hot).  You could filter this through muslin or cheesecloth or some such to arrive at a crystal clear end product, but we feel this is mostly unnecessary.  Voila, chicken stock.  Now you have a base for soups of all kinds, a liquid for cooking risotto or other rice dishes, beans, you name it.

And there you have it: three meals from one chicken.

An Informal Heritage Chicken Tasting

On Sunday afternoon we hosted a small, informal heritage chicken tasting at our house with a few friends.  The birds were roasted in two batches of four.  To prevent other flavors distracting from the taste of the actual chicken, it was a simple roasting affair: each bird was rubbed down with butter, salt, and pepper, then roasted at 425 degrees for one hour (15 minutes on each side, to thoroughly cook the leg/thigh meat, and 30 minutes with the breast up).

After they cooled enough to handle, the meat from the breasts, drumsticks, and thighs was cut up into bite-size pieces, the meat from each breed put on its own plate.  The plates themselves were marked “A” through “H” without any breed identification.  Participants took a few pieces of each and scored them for flavor and texture on a scale of 1 to 6, adding comments to their scorecards as they went.  When we were finished the scores were totaled.

Prior to the tasting I gave our friends a brief overview of our project, explaining that the American chicken industry is dominated (to the tune of 90+%) by the Cornish-Rock Cross (CRX), but that we wanted to determine how some of the heritage breeds compared, both to the modern hybrids as well as to each other.  Since we raised eight breeds, as far as they knew they were tasting the eight breeds that we raised; however, one of the breeds we raised (Buff Orpingtons) turned out to be all females so we didn’t process any of them, instead replacing them in the tasting with a local pasture-raised CRX.

The first batch.

The first batch.

The second batch.  Can you guess which is the Cornish-Rock Cross? (Hint: it's obvious.)

The second batch. Can you guess which is the Cornish-Rock Cross? (Hint: it’s obvious.)

Our friends, it should be noted, did not see the birds prior to carving (as seen above); they only saw the meat after it had been cut into pieces and put on plates for serving.  When all were finished, out of 48 possible points for flavor, here is how they stacked up:

  • Speckled Sussex: 37 pts.
  • New Hampshire Red: 34 pts.
  • Dominique: 34 pts.
  • Silver-Laced Wyandotte: 32 pts.
  • Naked Neck: 31 pts.
  • Delaware: 31 pts.
  • White Plymouth Rock: 30 pts.
  • CRX: 21 pts.

So the Speckled Sussex was the clear consensus “winner” and the CRX was the clear consensus “loser.”  But to me, the real takeaway was that they were all good (with the exception of the CRX, which most agreed was just bland), and that they were all different.  Hopefully we can get away from this notion of “tastes like chicken” and realize that different chickens taste different, and indeed that “tastes like chicken,” when we’re talking about the modern hybrids, usually just means “tastes like whatever flavor was added to it.”

In the end Ame and I amused ourselves with the observation that we used to think the heritage breeds looked pitiful and scrawny, but after more than a year of eating them exclusively we now find the CRX to be disgustingly obese and disproportionate.  Maybe it’s no wonder we, as a country, look the way we do when we eat chicken that looks the way it does.