Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My first free range chicken

Well, not my very first--a friend gave me some frozen chicken breasts from his CSA (along with other meat) over a year ago, and I invited him and mutual friends over for a big feast featuring these goods.  However, this was my first roast that I bought that was locally raised.

There's a winter's farmer's market here, and many area farmers offer locally raised chicken, rabbit, beef, pork, and lamb.  Now, I love rabbit, but I don't know of too many people who eat it besides me and I figured that the chicken would be a good bet. So I thought, okay, I will pay the much higher price for this (it was a lot more than grocery store chicken) and try it. It's not like I've been spending money like an heiress during the Gilded Age, so what the heck.  I had the extra money.  My parents came over on Sunday and I made it for them.

I didn't notice it tasting extremely different, though I thought the house filled with the smell of the roasting chicken more quickly (and more fully).  Maybe it's because I haven't been eating a lot of meat so I don't have any recent taste to compare it to.  It was good, quite tender, and it was flavorful.  I also liked the idea that the money I paid basically went into the farmer's pocket (whom I met when I bought the roast).  If I buy one in the grocery store, the money goes to a bunch of executives who are happy to squeeze the people who raise the livestock and slaughter the livestock.

One thing I do when I roast a chicken--no matter where I got it from--is I stuff it with a piece of fruit (usually an old apple, orange, or lemon), maybe an onion, and a bunch of herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme, usually).  That helps keep it moist.  I sprinkle a little salt over it, some pepper, and I might squeeze a little of the juice of the fruit (if it's citrus) over it, and I roast it in an oven that started at 450 degrees brought down to 350 degrees when I put the chicken in.  I estimate about 25 minutes per pound.  I had a five pound chicken.

However--I know that this is not something most people can easily do. I mean, I'm not joking when I said it was expensive.  though if anyone shops at Whole Foods (I don't, but I've been there and I've seen the prices), you'll find the prices to be similar.  If anyone reading this shops at Whole Foods, I'd suggest sourcing your meat and produce locally if you can; if you can afford to pay those prices and you want good food, you can get it for the same price from local producers. Just pay the farmer directly, they will get your money and you won't be paying more.  If I was not a single woman who was making enough money, if I had kids and a lower salary, this would not have been feasible.  And that's sad.  I'd rather that the farmer Tad get my hard earned money, frankly.

11 comments:

  1. I don't eat meat anymore....BUT if I did it would definitely be free range/organic. I feel sorry for all of the animals who live their short lives in cruel factory farms =/

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    1. Yeah, I'm a shameless omnivore but I'd rather eat happy chickens. Ironic, I know. ;) Dang it's expensive, though. So I can't side-eye anyone who can't do it--I so get that.

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  2. Eating free-range is on my list for changes to make this year. I think it will be possible, even on our budget. Animals who mostly feed on grass produce products that are higher in Omega-3s.

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    1. It's probably doable if you treat meat more like a flavoring. I don't eat a lot of meat (sheer laziness--it's easier for me to whip up a stir fry with tofu or an Indian-style lentil curry or pasta than try and figure out in the morning what I'll make and put the meat out to defrost).

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  3. I don't eat meat either, but free-range is definitely the only way to go! It's unethical to keep chickens caged. I don't know if you've seen battery chickens, but they lose all their feathers and their feet swell up and get infected.

    I don't tend to buy organic though. That might sound weird from a biologist, but the "organic pesticides" they use are things like copper ions, which are a lot more poisonous to both humans and the environment than the modern chemical pesticides!

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    1. I don't know about the UK, but in the US, "organic" is such a loosely defined term that I don't sweat it too much anymore. When I belonged to a CSA in my old place, I knew that they didn't use pesticides (hence, some of the ears of corn had some of the top kernels munched off, etc.). Which was fine.

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  4. How did it turn out? I don't eat meat, but frequently roast chickens for my husband. Was only able to buy a free range organic chicken once and it seemed drier than the regular old foster farms ones I get at the grocery store. Just curious if it tasted better.

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    1. Well, I thought it tasted good though I didn't notice it tasting SO CHICKENY the way Michael Pollan rasphodized about in The Omnivore's Dilmemna. I don't know if you have a slow cooker, but if you do, you could roast it in that all day. You won't have a crispy skin but the meat will be very tender. Or, if you want the crispy skin and so need to do it in an oven, I found that heating the oven to 450 degrees for about 15 minutes before putting the chicken in, then turning it down to 350 degrees right after I put it in did the job well. I also stuffed it with an orange, an onion, and herbs (I've used an apple and herbs in the past), and put just a little water in the bottom of the roasting pan, and basted it often.

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    2. Ooh I've been meaning to try it in the slow cooker, but was always scared of it looking anemic. One of these days I'm going to give it a shot!

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  5. I believe that healthy food is one place that you should not scrimp on. Factory raised birds have a lot of chemicals added to them, turkey has a brine ect... Meat especially should be free range/organic, if only it would catch on more.

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  6. I do buy grocery store chicken because I cannot afford a properly fed and raised one. My dream is to buy two flocks of 25 chickens and raise them and butcher them for myself. I figure one chicken each week should work for me. I only like the breast but could manage to put the rest of the chicken in soup or dumplings. At four or five meals from chicken each week, I could live well.

    However, I have eaten my own eggs from my own hens who have never had antibiotics and stuff themselves on grass as soon as they are let out of their pen each morning.If it weren't for predators, they would not have to be penned as I have taught them to stay in the yard. They are free-range, organic even though I cannot use that term if I were to sell eggs.

    Omega 3 which is in the eggs, milk, and meat of grass-fed animals, is used to treat and prevent heart disease. Although heart disease is not in my family, I try not to take chances.

    I have been thinking about going to the local coffee shop that carries grass-fed beef and trying it to see if I can taste the difference.

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