Tag: heritage chicken


The Ultimate Certification for Heritage Poultry

Certification by the American Poultry Association (APA) is the ultimate seal of approval for humane poultry production. The APA is America’s oldest agricultural association. Its certifications are endorsed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and it signifies that the animals are raised with balanced genetics, not genetics overbred for fast growth. Heritage chickens take 150 days to grow to market weight as opposed to 48 days on commodity farms. We applaud all producers including Frank Reese who have been endorsed by the APA.

Frank hold a certificate from the APA for each breed he raises. Here are the certificates for each of the 3 breeds we have available this week:

Whole Chickens
Two 3-4lb chicken $69
Two 3-4lb chicken $137
Barred Plymouth Rock or Cornish

Whole Chicken
Breed Tasting Kit $115
One 3-4lb chicken each from:
New Hampshire, Cornish and Barred Plymouth Rock

Ground Chicken
Three 1lb packs $55
Ten 1lb packs $175
Barred Plymouth Rock

What Separates Heritage Chickens From the Rest of the Pack?

What really separates Heritage Breeds of chicken from the rest of the pack, and why is it so important to help preserve breed diversity?

Barred Rock Hen.
Barred Rock Hen.

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.

Hen standing in the sunshine at Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch.
Hen standing in the sunshine at Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch.
Jersey Giant from Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch.
Jersey Giant from Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch.
Columbian Wyndotte from Good Shepard Poultry Ranch.
Columbian Wyndotte from Good Shepard Poultry Ranch.
Barred Rock Hen on Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch.
Barred Rock Hen on Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch.
Hens forge together at Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch.
Hens forge together at Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch.

Rare Breed Heritage Chicken Tour

Good Shepherd Chicken

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.”

Conventional Chicken vs Heritage Chicken Nutrition Facts
Conventional Chicken vs Heritage Chicken Nutrition Facts

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!

Heritage Chef Steve Pope Prepares Fried Chicken

Laura’s Summer Picnic Fried Chicken is one of our favorite recipes.  We find it particularly well suited to our Columdian Wyandotte  Chickens.

 

 

Pope-Photo-235x300

 

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.

Recipe:

1 selected Good Shepherd Ranch Heritage Chicken™

1/4tsp pepper

¾ cup flour

½ cup butter

1 tsp salt

cooking oil

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/

 

Heritage Cowboy Chicken

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:

_cowboy chicken

Ingredients

1 3 to 4 lb Whole Heritage Chicken
1 Tbsp Olive Oil

Rub:
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

Glaze:
½ cup Melted Butter
½ cup Balsamic Vinegar
½ cup Honey

Directions

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.

Summer Grilled Heritage Chicken

photo-10

 

By Dick Bessey

1 Columbian Wyandotte Chicken

2 tsp salt

Olive oil for coating grill

Cut chicken into pieces and sprinkle with salt. Heat grill to low to medium heat. Coat grill with some olive oil to prevent sticking. Lay chicken skin side down on grill and cook for about 15 minutes until the skin is nicely browned. Flip pieces over and cook another 15 minutes. The chicken is done the moment you cut it and the juices run clear (The USDA recommends an internal temperature of 165 degrees, but many of our chefs say a few degrees less is safe with Heritage chicken).

Serve with your favorite grilling sides and beverages (everything from beer and potato chips to champagne and grilled asparagus) and enjoy!

Heritage Chicken Tour Takes Flight!

GSTR_ColumbianWyndotte

Heritage Foods USA is proud to announce our historic effort to revive 24 rare, heritage chicken lines and create an alternative market for non-industrially bred chicken.  We are partnering with Frank Reese, the country’s preeminent poultry farmer, to show our customers what real chicken tastes like.

Heritage Foods USA will offer a rotation of 24 heritage chicken varieties every 3 months starting immediately.  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. 

chickens

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.”

Our inaugural breed is the Wyandotte of the Columbian variety.  This very old American breed of chicken was first exhibited in 1890 at the Columbian World’s Fair in Chicago.  There are fewer than four breeders in America who raise the Columbian Wyandotte to the true old standards, and most have fewer than 25 hens. We hope you will support our commitment to revive heritage chickens and establish an alternative poultry market.

The Chicken of Tomorrow needs to be the Chicken of Yesterday

GSTR_Chicks  GSTR_ManyChixBreeds

By Janani Lee

“The better the breeding, the better the eating,” Frank Perdue declares in an old commercial from Perdue chicken. He walks us through the breeds of chicken the Perdue company has raised throughout its history, listing the relative merits and drawbacks of the Barred Plymouth Rock through the Rhode Island Red, None of them, he claims, are up to his standards of “tender meat, plump breasts, [and] well turned legs.” So he had to develop his own. It is telling that a generation later, the breeds of these chickens are not nearly recognizable enough to be used in a television advertisement. In fact, the general pubic does not distinguish one breed of chicken from the next because they rarely encounter chicken that is not ready to cook or eat. The broiler industry came to rely on uniformity in size, growth rate, and behavior of its chickens in order to maintain a consistent supply for the consumer, and a bird was needed that could meet those specifications.

            Beginning in the late 1940’s, A&P Groceries sponsored the “Chicken of Tomorrow” contest for the “development of superior meat-type chickens.” The growing chicken industry sought ways to maintain and expand upon this boom by developing a chicken that would appeal to the consumer’s demands. The purpose of the contest was to find a “broader breasted bird with bigger drumsticks, plumper thighs, and layers of white meat,” which grew quickly with a high feed-to-weight conversion – a contrast to the slower growing, leaner hens that had been used mostly as laying hens in years past.

The chicken to come out of the contest victorious was a Cornish and White Rock cross-breed, which has been further refined by the broiler industry over the past few decades for “rapid growth, efficient feed conversion, broad- breastedness, limited feathering (for ease of plucking) and other traits considered desirable for rearing very large numbers of birds in confinement.” Most commercial and pasture raised chickens today are Cornish crosses, with breeding companies (many of them vertically integrated into meat producers) cross breeding to produce specific traits in male and female lines whose offspring is an ideal meat chicken. This crossbreeding also means that the offspring of the resulting chicks will not be true to either parent, protecting the breeding companies’ genetic research. While these crosses serve the meat industry well, they are far from the optimal breed of chicken.

chickens           Food Inc (2009)

Commercial chickens reach market weight of five pounds live in four to seven weeks; compared to the sixteen weeks it took in the 1950s. The physiological changes include the distribution of muscle mass (most of their weight is now located in their breasts) and the digestive and nervous system shift to give the birds “an insatiable appetite.” This bulky, hungry bird is highly susceptible to stress, cardiovascular failure, skeletal problems, and poor reproductive capabilities. One study showed that a modern chicken’s heart muscle was less developed than a heritage breed chicken of the same age and hypothesized that the “modern selection has diverted resources originally destined to maintain balanced heart growth into increased breast muscle mass.” The same study goes on to link the early development of the chickens’ livers and the increased length of their intestines to their need to metabolize feed quickly.Because these chickens are slaughtered at an early age, most of these health issues pose only a limited problem, but when other farmers raise the birds on pasture, the weak hearts and legs become more apparent since it takes longer to bring them to market weight. These farmers are showing a renewed interest in purchasing heritage breed chicks that are more suited to be raised on pasture.

       Heritage chickens are defined by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy as recognized Standard breeds of chicken that are “naturally mating, long lived, and slow growing.” Standard breeds are not crossbred and the offspring breeds are true to the parents, allowing farmers to maintain the genetic lines of their own flocks. Breeds like the Jersey Giant or Columbian Wyandotte can reach market weight in sixteen weeks, while some slower growing birds can take up to 24 weeks. Most of these breeds are also adequate egg producers and will live for up to seven years. They have healthier immune systems and are adapted to life on pasture, including the ability to forage for insects. While they are not as efficient at converting feed to muscle, their hearts grow at a proportional rate to their bodies and their skeletal structures are strong enough to support them.

            It is necessary to preserve heritage chickens that are not being farmed by the poultry industry for the same reasons that advocates work to preserve heirloom seeds: biodiversity. Industrial broiler chickens have been bred to grow quickly and efficiently and not do much else. They do not breed, lay, brood, care for their offspring, forage, or grow like chickens have since they were domesticated 8000 years ago. They lack the genetic diversity that would allow them to adapt to a change in their environment. Unlike plants, however, the genes that dictate these traits cannot be preserved inertly in a seed bank. They survive only in living birds and the only way to ensure their continued existence is for farmers raising them. These heritage breeds require increased feed and a longer growing period, meaning that farmers either need government incentives or increased market demand to ensure that they remain economically viable. There is a niche market for heritage chickens and they can sell for a higher price, but that market needs to be expanded. Increasing market demand also brings up a culinary aspect of chicken – as the biodiversity of chicken breeds narrows, we loose variations in chicken flavors. While this loss is unquantifiable, cultural history gets lost when flavors are no longer valued and when chemical additives in fast food replace natural variations in flavor. The philosophical question also needs to be considered: what we view the chicken itself as – an easy source of animal protein for humans or an animal in its own right. Though humans have been subtly altering chicken’s genetics for centuries through domestication and hybridization, it is only in the past few decades that this has resulted in the vast dominance of birds that are not healthy past eight weeks old.

Columbian Wyandotte

ColumbianWyandotteHen

We are about to begin our Heritage Rare Breed Chicken Tour here at Heritage Foods USA and could not be more excited about working with preeminent poultry farmer Frank Reese to revive these breeds. In the coming weeks we will post more info, recipes, stories, and videos about the project, but we wanted to start with an introduction to our inaugural breed: the Columbian Wyandotte.

This very old American breed of chicken was first exhibited in 1890 at the Columbian World’s Fair in Chicago. Wyandottes are hearty birds that can stand up to cold temperatures and are know for their good disposition in flocks. The Columbian Wyandotte is a medium sized bird with a white feather body and contrasting black and silver neck and tail plumage. There are currently fewer than four breeders in America who raise the Columbian Wyandotte to the true old standards, and most have less than 25 hens.

Columbian Wyandottes are good for frying and are sought after for their fine texture, taste, and healthy lipid fine yellow fat. Like all heritage poultry that are pasture raised, they have well developed legs and wings that respond best to slow cooking at a low temperature.

Stay tuned for more info and recipes!

Heritage Chickens: A Year-Round Treat

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.

Cooked Jersey Giant
A Jersey Giant Chicken, cooked low and slow

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.

 

 

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