What Chicken do I Choose for Five Fast Chicken Dinners?

by Kirke on July 24, 2014

 

It is important to consider carefully the choice of bird for these five recipes, as it is for any chicken meal. If you want to truly nurture your family with the best quality food you can find, it is essential to start with a protein component that embodies food safety, high quality nutrition, as well as fine flavor. A nurturing meal is one that is not only nutritive, but is also one that represents the caring you have for your family, and the care you have for the environment where they live.

As a young line cook, early in my career, I visited a sister who lives in Paris. One evening I volunteered to cook dinner in her home. With my Gallophile sister as my guide, we shopped the specialty stores: la boucherie (butcher), la boulangerie (bakery), le magasin de fruits and legumes, la patisserie (pastry) and l’epicerie (grocery). This separate outlet motif still defines personal food acquisition in France. I marveled at the skinny looking birds hanging in the windows of les boucheries. I asked if they were pheasants, the only fowl I knew that were similar. My sister informed me they were called fermier chickens, and she encouraged me to try preparing one for dinner. The experience taught me that the chicken I knew was a bland facsimile of the bird I cooked that night, one that tasted like it spent it’s life running around the farm (lean legs, muscular thighs, proportional breasts), eating whatever it found on the ground (complex flavors).Upon my return to California, I searched for a version of this free ranging chicken with full flavor. I found one brand that barely compared.

 

I now know that the particular breed of chicken is as important as what it eats or how it’s raised in contributing to the final flavor profile. My French chicken could have been one of any number of different breeds (320 today).The French love their chickens, having 132,5oo backyard flocks, that’s over 2 million birds, as of 2005. Back when I cooked my first French chicken, there were fewer regulations, and at the time the term fermier chicken, just meant that it was raised on a farm. Nevertheless, it certainly never saw the inside of a factory warehouse like those found all over the US today. (France has a large commercial poultry industry, too.) French agricultural regulations have now become thorough and sophisticated and the US would do well to emulate how they regulate the raising of animals. There are a growing number responsible chicken producers in the US today, but that number is still small.

The chicken I choose to feed my family is Mary’s Organic Chicken

The chicken I choose to feed my family is Mary’s Organic Chicken, produced by Pitman Farms in Sanger, in the Central Valley of California. The Pitman family has been raising poultry for three generations. Don Pitman started raising free range turkeys in 1954. His son Rick continued the business, naming the company after his wife Mary, who has studied nutrition for twenty years. Mary witnessed the importance of whole, natural ingredients for her own health when she strove to eliminate simple sugars, preservatives, and food additives from her diet. It was a logical step realizing the same principles applied to diet of the animals she raised and consumed.

See the video from Mary’s Chicken Farms below:

 

In addition to being able to roam in an open, stress free environment (with bales of straw for pecking and eucalyptus branches for playing and hiding!), four times the size of an average commercial chicken farm, Mary’s Organic Chickens are fed a vegetarian diet of 60% non-GMO corn, 30% soybean meal, 5% vitamins and nutrients, and with no synthetic amino acids, no preservatives, and no antibiotics.

Mary’s free range Organic Chickens are white feathered Ross birds. They also offer Pasture Raised Bronze Chickens as their Heritage breed, descended from the French Rhode Island chicken. These Bronze chickens are leaner, with 17% less breast meat and larger thighs from all the exercise they get following their pasture pens that are mounted on trailers, moving to fresh pasture every three days. The breed sounds very similar to my Paris chicken. While the heritage breed chickens are a little more expensive, they are their fastest growing product line. Incidentally, they take twice as long to grow to maturity compared to commercial broilers, leading to the higher price point.

 

One reason Mary’s Chickens taste like a chicken should, and why they represent such a good value is due to the fact they are air-cooled following slaughter. Most commercial poultry producers chill their birds in water bath. Water chilled birds retain 8-12 % fluid by weight and are supposed to state the percentage on the label. Not only does this dilute the flavor, the resulting extra weight is paid for as chicken meat by consumers at the checkout stand. This communal water bath used to chill birds can lead to cross contamination, possibly explaining part of the problem California commercial chicken producer Foster Farms has had containing the recent outbreak of multidrug resistant salmonella Heidelberg infections. The USDA issued a public health alert in October of 2013, yet Foster Farms declined to issue a recall. On going for nearly a year and a half, causing 600 illnesses and 200 hospitalizations, this debacle has belatedly led the USDA to demand action. Foster Farms issued a recall of one million pounds of its chicken products on July 3, 2014. The irresponsible greed of large commercial poultry producers who utilize factory style farming can only be addressed by consumers speaking with their shopping dollars. Any extra loose change needed to pay for organic well-raised birds is an investment with high returns when it comes to the health and happiness of your family. And dinner will taste better, too.

The irresponsible greed of large commercial poultry producers who utilize factory style farming can only be addressed by consumers speaking with their shopping dollars.

Mary’s Chickens and other poultry producers that use the air-cooled process have much lower rates of salmonella contamination. Furthermore, as of 2012, Pitman Farms is one of only two chicken producers to use a technique of processing to be sanctioned by People of the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Instead of the usual method of shackling the live birds upside down and killing them by running them through an electrified bath before being bled out, an extremely traumatic process for the animals, Mary’s Chickens are led through a chamber slowly filled with CO2, rendering the birds totally unconscious before slaughter.

 

All this thoughtful work by the Pitman family brings a flavorful chicken dinner to your table, which can be consumed with the knowledge that the meat you are feeding your family is as contaminant free and as ethically produced as current technology will allow.

If you want to find a chicken producer like the Pitman family, try searching online. Tell your grocer what kind of chicken you want to buy; he/she has an interest in pleasing you, his livelihood provider. If you can’t find a good producer, please send me an email, and I’ll try and see if I can get a good chicken in your pot.

References:

DeWall, C. S. (2014, July 17). Finally-USDA issues recall alert in ongoing multistate outbreak of multidrug resistant salmonella. Retrieved July 17, 2014, from http://www.nutritionaction.com/daily/food-safety/finally-usda-issues-recall-alert-in-ongoing-multistate-outbreak-of-multidrug-resistant-salmonella/

FAO. 2010. Small commercial and family poultry production in France: characteristics, and impact of HPAI regulations, by E. Fermet-Quinet and C. Bussière. FAO Smallholder Poultry Production Paper No.3. Rome.

Harris, L. J. (2012, November 9). French chicken, part 1: Does labeling equal liberty? Retrieved July 22, 2014, from http://zesterdaily.com/world/french-chicken-part-1-best-birds-in-liberty/

Harris, L. J. (2012, November 30). French chicken, part 2: Chicken-licken’ tour of Paris. Retrieved July 22, 2014, from http://zesterdaily.com/cooking/french-chicken-part-2-chicken-lickin-tour-of-paris/

There are chickens-and there are Mary’s Chickens! (2012, May). Retrieved from http://www.foodpaths.com/episode-22

Timeline of events: Multistate outbreak of multidrug-resistant salmonella Heidelberg infections linked to Foster Farms Chicken. (2014, July 4). Retrieved July 7, 2014, from http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/heidelberg-10-13/timeline.html

Water in meat and poultry. (2013, August 6). Retrieved July 23, 2014, from Food Safety and Inspection Service of USDA website: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/meat-preparation/water-in-meat-and-poultry/ct_index

 

 

 

 

Leave a Comment

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Previous post:

Next post: