At Heritage Foods USA, Frank Reese is a super hero. His farming practices should be a model for anyone who cares about taste and the survival and success of true heritage breeds. We started our business because we believed in Frank, and his heritage turkeys have really sustained us. It is nearly impossible to compete with his birds…
Tag: Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch
A huge “Thank You” to all participants for sharing your holiday feast with us!
We are thrilled to announce the winner of our 2015 Heritage Turkey Photo Contest!
Each family submitted photos of their Heritage Thanksgiving Turkey for a chance to win an 18-20lb Heritage Turkey for Thanksgiving 2016. Our inbox was flooded with your submissions, here are the best of the best:
2015 Turkey Photo Contest Winner:
Freyja & Susan
South Berwick, ME
To all of you who support the Heritage Turkey Project, you have truly made this project a success. Thank You!
It would not be possible without your support and enthusiasm over the years.
At the heart of Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch is Frank Reese, a fourth-generation farmer on a 100-year-old farm in central Kansas with more than 60 years of experience in breeding and farming heritage poultry.
This year we are proud to announce the development of The Good Shepherd Institute, a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to supporting the health of our national food system by educating agricultural experts, farmers, and students about techniques for preserving rare and heritage livestock. Course content will include both hands-on and lecture-style training. The curriculum is being developed in conjunction with Kansas Wesleyan University as an extension of their Environmental Studies Bachelor’s degree program.
We invite you to review the University program first-hand! Join Frank, working side-by-side, in a completely immersive farming experience. Learn about all aspects of sustainable heritage farming on-site at Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch while exploring the historical, biological, and cultural importance of heritage poultry. This experience is a complete program for the novice to the experienced farmer – visit a USDA certified processor, tour local historic sites and learn from experts in the field.
· 4 nights at the Swedish Country Inn.
· Breakfasts, lunches and dinners catered by local chefs.
· Transportation within Kansas.
$1400 per person
$1900 per couple
Agriturismo Tours support the development of the Good Shepherd Institute’s University accredited program, providing funding for on-site classroom facilities and program infrastructure. If you can’t make the trip and would still like to contribute, we are accepting charitable donations for continued curriculum development and infrastructure at The Good Shepherd Institute.
Please make checks payable to Good Shepherd Institute and mail to Heritage Foods USA, 790 Washington Ave, PMB 303 Brooklyn, NY 11238. Donations are tax deductible.
Every morning it’s the same routine for poultry farmer Frank Reese. Frank walks several thousand turkeys from their barn out to pasture, where they spend the day foraging in the rolling Kansas plains. In the evening he opens the large barn doors, cuing the flock to head indoors where they can roost safely for the night.
Exercise and access to natural forage help to keep heritage turkeys strong and healthy. It also enables the birds to develop fat, nutritional content, and flavor. Not too long ago this was how all turkeys were raised, but Frank has gone to great lengths to preserve traditional standards of raising turkeys. Each year, as his flock is developing, he closely watches the birds mature. At the end of the season Frank will select the individuals with the most desirable traits to parent the next generation.
This yearly cycle drives the sustainability of Frank’s operation. All of his turkeys mate naturally, have a long and productive lifespan, and develop at a healthy rate – simple traits that really allow his flock to stand out from commodity production.
Follow our blog for more 2015 heritage turkey updates!
Life on Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch is good. Frank Reese raises heritage breeds of geese, chicken, and of course turkeys all on open pasture in the Tallgrass Prairies of Lind….
What really separates Heritage Breeds of chicken from the rest of the pack, and why is it so important to help preserve breed diversity?
What is most remarkable about the chicken is that every one of the approximately 12 billion that populate the planet earth are all descended from the Red junglefowl (gallus gallus) of southern Asia.
Of course, counting how many chickens exist is no easy task considering that chicken just surpassed beef as the most eaten meat in the United States. Chickens also live in backyards and rooftops in every country in the world — they only need a small space to provide us with eggs and meat. Sadly many varieties of chicken are on the endangered species list. This cultural loss began in the 1950s but sped up in the 1970s.
Frank Reese and Good Shepherd Ranch are part of an underground movement to preserve old genetics. Today Good Shepherd with Heritage Foods USA is the only company selling 100% USDA inspected factory farm free chicken meat. This means no genetic meddling took place other than preservation of what real chickens once were. No one knows what real chickens are like better than Frank who has been in the business for over 50 years, since he was a little boy. He knows the taste and composition of every chicken that ever walked on American soil. His farm is a museum of the past and if good sense prevails, also the future! Of course no antibiotics are needed on Good Shepherd Ranch because the animals are strong and capable of reproducing on their own. These are chickens with 10,000 year histories.
In an effort promote heritage chickens, Heritage Foods USA is starting to sell ground chicken. This ground can be purchased as part of our livestock variety packs and soon by itself. The delicious ground meat is available in one-pound bags and consists only of heritage birds. Our goal is to increase the market for heritage breeds of chicken, allowing Frank and neighboring farms room to increase various breed populations.
Our whole chicken program continues each season with a rotation of all the breeds that Frank dutifully raises on his ranch. In 2014 the Rhode Island White, Leghorn, Minorca, and White Cornish will have been celebrated on dinner tables around the country. I asked Frank what the differences were between them and he answered, “It’s as big a difference as a Great Dane and a Chihuahua!” We are proud to feature each breed by itself every 3 months as well as breed variety packs that allow you to compare and contrast the flavors and shape of the birds. For a full list of breeds we will feature over the coming months see below. Together we hope to turn the tide against monoculture in the American poultry industry.
Working to change the way Americans eat chicken is no easy task. The industry is dominated by a single variety of chicken that got its start in the 1950s but really became a central actor on the American stage in the 1970s when the folks at Tyson met with the folks at McDonalds to develop the Chicken McNugget. The nugget provided Tyson with a stable and consistent market while also relieving them of the pressures of the fresh poultry market — nuggets could be frozen. Fresh chickens as a dominant part of the industry now became a thing of the past. The nugget created the need for the development of a new industrial hybrid chicken broiler that made the most amount of meat using the least amount of feed. Another goal was that the birds produce almost exclusively white meat even though nature does not do that on its own.
The industry scoured flocks for abnormal candidates to breed together to develop the characteristics they desired, even though it has ultimately been unhealthy for the species. When the industry came across one of nature’s mistakes — say, a chicken so top-heavy with meat that it could barely walk—they pulled it from the flock, not to kill it in an effort to protect the group from bad genes, but to ensure that its abnormal genetics became part of the next year’s harvest. The misfits were cataloged and combined — corporate farms now consist of entire populations who’s skeletal, cardiovascular, and immune systems can’t keep up with their genetic engineering. Long before they got to the crowded feeding ops, these animals were doomed to a life of pain with a potpourri of scurrilous genetics. But boy, do they grow fast! A five-pound chicken has gone from taking 16 weeks to only six weeks to fully grow, but many are on the verge of collapse when they arrive on the kill floor. These are dead end animals.
Thankfully farmers like Frank resisted the trend. His farm consists of dozens of breeds neatly divided in pens. Frank works to improve each genetic line that he has acquired over the past decades. Each breed tastes different but they all boast more dark meat than industrial cousins. They also look like a chicken with thinner breast lines, and a strong build.
The flavor of the meat is intense and the fibers in the meat are very strong and difficult to break down. Heritage chickens must be cooked very low and very slow. Without this technique the birds will be tough. Moisture must also a part of cooking process or else they dry out over the long cooking time.
The breeds Frank raises include Columbian Wyandotte, Rhode Island Whites, Black Leghorns, Golden Penciled Hamburg, Dark Brahma, Silver Laced Wyandotte, White Laced Red Cornish, Dark Cornish, White Cornish, White Jersey Giants, Black Jersey Giants, White Leghorns, Buff Leghorns, Blue Andalusian, Barred Plymouth Rock, Ancona, Light Brown Leghorn, Dark Brown Leghorn, Silber Leghorn, Black Minorca, White Face Black Spanish, Silver Penciled Hamburg, Plymouth Rocks and New Hampshires among many more. We hope you will try each one and help us lay the path for a return of taste and dignity for our animals.
The next trip is scheduled for May 1st, and we’d like to invite you to join us on the road! We will be updating The Blog and Facebook every step of the way with pictures and stories of our adventures. Let us know what you want to see and what questions you have for our farmers and we’ll find you answers!
Last summer we launched our Rare Breed Heritage Chicken Tour – an effort to revive 24 rare, heritage chicken lines and create an alternative market for non-industrially bred chicken. We partnered with Frank Reese, the country’s preeminent poultry farmer, to show our customers what real chicken tastes like.
Heritage Foods USA is now offering a rotation of 24 heritage chicken varieties every 3-4 months. Numerous heritage breeds of chicken are on the brink of extinction and we must create a market for them by eating them. Heritage Foods USA is the only place you can taste these special heritage birds today.
Heritage chickens are breeds that have been around since before the industrial era. Their genetic lineage has been preserved from genetic modification. Heritage birds grow at a healthy rate, while industry chickens are genetically manipulated to grow at an unnaturally fast rate that is harmful to the skeletal, cardiovascular, and immune systems of the bird. Industrial chickens are bred as dead end animals that cannot reproduce or survive on their own.
Mr. Reese explains, “It is not the antibiotics. It is not the hormones. It is not the feed. It is the genetically engineered animal” that makes the difference in the poultry industry. If we focus on animal welfare while ignoring the genetics of these birds, we are not changing a thing.
Mr. Reese’s poultry not only look and taste different from commodity poultry; his birds have double the protein and half the fat. He told us, “The skinnier the bird, the longer the leg, the darker the meat, the higher the nutrition. The bigger and fatter and plumper it is, the more worthless the meat is.”
So far we have offered Colombian Wyandotte and Rhode Island White. Next up is the White Leghorn coming in early spring. After that we have many more varieties including New Hampshire, Silver Penciled Plymouth Rocks, Dark Brahmas, Black Jersey Giants, Golden Penciled Hamburg, and many more!
Laura’s Summer Picnic Fried Chicken is one of our favorite recipes. We find it particularly well suited to our Columdian Wyandotte Chickens.
There is nothing that can compare to home fried chicken. Laura Reese could kill, pluck, clean and fry a chicken before you could get to, and from, local Chicken Shack in town. She had a way of cooking chicken that you’d swear it was God sent. Her culinary talents were uncomplicated but by no means uninspiring. Her cooking was no family secret, she simply had mastered her craft by repetition. Laura had a big well seasoned cast iron frying pan that was a family heirloom. By combining basic elements her cooking was delightfully and deliciously predictable.
1 selected Good Shepherd Ranch Heritage Chicken™
¾ cup flour
½ cup butter
1 tsp salt
¼ cup water
Cut chicken into halves or quarters. Wash carefully and pat dry. Shake in bag with flour, salt and pepper. Place in cast iron skillet with pre-heated cooking oil and brown on all sides. Remove grease from skillet and then dot the fried pieces with butter, then add ¼ cup water , cover and cook on low heat for 20 minutes or until done. When ready to serve turn heat back up to medium high and cook the chicken uncovered for 5 minutes turning to increase surface crispness.
Heritage Chef Steve Pope knows that American culinary traditions are tied to preserving Heritage Animals.These animals get to live as they are supposed to with plenty of outdoor space and time to grow and develop. This means a more flavorful bird, but it also means relearning how to cook a real chicken. He has worked with our friends at Good Shepherd Poultry to craft recipes specifically for Heritage Chicken and Turkey.
You can find many of his recommendations and recipes on his website here http://www.heritagechef.com/
So you’ve just gotten your Columbian Wyandotte Chickens and are looking for some recipe ideas. Here’s another great one from Chef Cheryl McCleary:
1 3 to 4 lb Whole Heritage Chicken
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Kosher Salt
2 Tbsp Sugar in the Raw (can use brown sugar)
2 Tbsp Ground Chili’s (ground roasted New Mexico chili’s)
1 Tbsp Large Grind Black Pepper
1 Tbsp Five Spice Powder
½ Tbsp Granulated Garlic
½ Tbsp Onion Powder
½ Tbsp Lemonade Powder
¼ tsp Cayenne Pepper
¼ tsp Celery Seeds
½ cup Melted Butter
½ cup Balsamic Vinegar
½ cup Honey
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix all ingredients for rub and set aside until you prepare chicken. Cut chicken in half down center on back, open it up and lay it flat. Put light coat of olive oil all over chicken, on bottom side of chicken (would be the inside) lightly cover with rub. On top side of chicken generously coat with rub. Put seasoned chicken on top of broiler pan, bake to 165 degrees internal temperature. Turn oven up to 450 degrees to crisp the skin cooking until chicken reaches 175 internal temperature it take about 5 minutes, take chicken out of oven, glaze, let rest 10 – 15 minutes and let internal temperature rise to 180 degrees, glaze one more time and serve.
Remember, Heritage chickens cook differently than supermarket birds, so times and temperatures may need to be adjusted based on your oven.