Good Shepherd Turkey Ranch is widely regarded as the premium provider of heritage turkeys, and Heritage Foods USA relies on the genetic integrity of Frank Reese’s birds each and every holiday season. But did you know that the Reeses also produce genetically pure, delicious chickens year-round? These heritage breed Jersey Giant and Barred Rock chickens come from a long lineage, akin to those your grandparents may have eaten growing up prior to the industrial era.
The Jersey Giant chicken was developed between 1870 and 1890 by John and Thomas Black near the town of Jobstown, New Jersey. These typically mellow chickens are impressive in size, reaching 10-13lbs at maturity, making them the largest purebred chicken breed in existence. The commercial standard developed for poultry includes a rugged gigantic frame, with an angular shape, single comb and black shanks. Reese chose to raise Jersey Giants to illustrate the diversity of heritage chicken breeds. The Jersey Giant is a slow growing bird: it takes 24-28 weeks to reach market weight, as compared to the Plymouth’s 16-18 weeks. With such a long growth period, these chickens often fall short in the eyes of the commercial industry to more rapidly growing birds. Currently, there are fewer than 5,000 Jersey Giants in the U.S.; however, with its large size and silky, rich meat, this is the perfect chicken for roasting. Dress it simply to taste its natural flavors.
The Barred Rock, a variety of the Plymouth Rock (or simply “Rock”), originated in the United States and was admitted to the APA Standard in 1874. They possess a long, broad back, a moderately deep, full breast, and yellow skin. Developed in New England in the middle of the 19th century, the Barred Rock was first exhibited as a breed in 1869. This breed is considered a dual-purpose fowl, meaning that it is valued both for its meat and for the hens’ egg-laying ability. The breed gained popularity very rapidly due to its hardiness, docility, broodiness, and excellent production of both eggs and meat. In fact, until World War II, the Barred Rock was the most extensively kept and bred breed in the United States.
As with all heritage products, Heritage chickens are humanely raised on open pastures, providing them with a healthy lifestyle and lots of exercise. This method of raising livestock yields a larger muscle-mass, and for this reason, heritage fowl require a cooking low and slow cooking technique.