“Am I eating chicken or tuna?” Jessica Simpson
Chicken by far is the most frequent animal protein in my family’s diet. We’re fans of the chicken. The pasture raised, organically fed chicken that is.
I can remember my mom broiling chicken breasts in the oven for dinner, or opening a can of shredded chicken for chicken salad sandwiches. For family gatherings my uncle would bbq chicken breasts till they were dry and brittle. When it was cold out or if someone got sick, my grandmother would cook whole chickens in stock for soups.
Chicken consumption has steadily increased year after year since the National Chicken Council has been tracking back to 1965. As of 2011 the average consumer intakes roughly 84 pounds of chicken a year. The numbers have gone up and down slightly from 2007 to today. Possibly it’s a result of the current state of our changing climate, economy, and lifestyles. One thing I’ve been challenged by is the type of chicken consumption that has been on the rise. Individual portions such as boneless, skinless breasts or chicken wings. What about the rest of the chicken? 100 million pounds of chicken wings were consumed over 2012 super bowl weekend. That is enough wings circle the earth, twice, if laid end to end. Concerns with obesity, heart disease, and other health issues have people seeking out boneless, skinless, white meat. Again ignoring the rest of the bird which is equally healthy in different ways as the white meat. Much of this behavior is leaving a disconnect with what the food ever use to look like, where it came from, how it lived, or where it was processed.
We were walking through the grocery store the other day and the loud speaker crackles on…”xxx shoppers, check out our special on boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $0.89 cents a pound…” My goodness that is CHEAP. But really – those birds should not cost so little. There is so much more to growing a chicken than what many of us think. They need fresh air, grass, healthy hormone/antibiotic FREE scratch, and most of all room to roam. All of these things need time and care – which is not cheap. Industrial chicken producers are able to provide this very low price and meet the demands of the consumer by productions like this:
This by far looks to be a cleaner production than most. I see there is actually light in this chicken house. Many houses are closed off to light or combine cages so movement is even less than you see here. Due to the tight quarters the animals are provided antibiotics to ward off diseases because of the high exposure to feces and other dead birds left in the cages. This is their life from chick to table – there is no roaming and fresh air is circulated with large industrial fans. They are provided hormones to increase weight in a short period of time. Many times the weights of these birds is more than their small frames can allow, which disables their ability to walk for the remainder of their short lives. Producers try to use terms like “cage-free” or “free-range” to entice those trying to make better food choices. The challenge with this is that the verbiage is mis-leading and confusing to the consumer.
Besides the hormones, antibiotics, and tainted feed…I can’t support a practice that treats life as such. If I’m going to eat anything, I must know that it’s been raised and harvested with the utmost care and respect. I must know that the people handling my food are also treated with the utmost care and respect. I could never expose an employee of mine to such conditions – the smell, the chemical run off, the airborne diseases… I would never want to expose anyone to such an environment…nor would I ever want anyone to have to eat such a product.
My family has chosen a different route with our chicken.
I know the hill my chicken grazes on every morning. I know the grass and the scratch that goes into my chicken every day. I know the farmer who works very hard day and night to ensure that she provides the very best product to her consumers while honoring the land and it’s inhabitants.
My family purchases our pasture raised, organic fed chickens & turkeys from Pasture Chick Ranch. We choose to utilize the whole bird, not just a part. Pasture Chick’s chicken weights range between 3.5 and 4.5 pounds, which gives us enough meat for three different meals and bones for stock. Any remaining skin and cartilage goes to the dog, which benefits her skin, coat, and joints. Every bit of the bird is used, never wasted. See here on how Pasture Chick Ranch works towards responsible land management and conservation.
I’ve made this statement before in regards to other pasture raised animals, farming practices, and prices… and I’ll say it again… I realize that not everyone has access to local farms, farmers markets, or even grocery stores carrying these fresh natural items. I also realize that not everyone can afford Pasture Raised Organic Whole Chickens – especially when they are enticed by the prices that the industrial operations offer. BUT…this is why I do what I do…this is why I write to inform…this is why I support my local farmer practicing sustainable standards…to change the system allowing everyone access to good wholesome natural affordable food.
I realize it may be daunting to cook a whole chicken and figure out how to use the rest – so here is an easy roasted chicken recipe that you can make on Monday and the leftovers will last you through Wednesday. Take time for the extra carving steps and breaking down the chicken after roasting will be easier than ever.
* = organic
*^ – organic / local
The Best Roasted Chicken
425 degrees, 15 minutes a pound
1 whole chicken, butterflied*^
kosher salt – to taste
pepper – to taste
paprika – to taste
garlic powder – to state
1/4 cup tallow, melted*^
Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees. Prepare a roasting pan covered with tinfoil to help with clean up and to also avoid burning the good juices that drip.
On a clean cutting board place your rinsed whole chicken breast side down with the backbone facing up. With a sharp pair of kitchen scissors, start from the tail cutting along the edge of the spine all the way through.
Now turn the chicken so the wishbone is closest to you. Locate the white cartilage where the keel bone is attached to the collar bone. With a small sharp knife make a cut into the cartilage. Holding both sides of the bird, with your fingers underneath the breasts, you will snap the cartilage away from the bird.
The purpose of removing the keel bone is to allow for faster cooking times, easier to carve after cooking, and overall easier to season – allowing you to get into all areas of the bird.
Here is a link for video instructions on how to butterfly a chicken.
Next in a small pot on the stove or a microwave safe dish, melt down 1/4 cup of pasture raised, grass-fed tallow.
Place your butterflied chicken in the lined roasting pan, breast side down. Season liberally with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. With a silicon basting brush, brush the tallow throughout the inside of the chicken, incorporating the spices with the tallow….making sure to get in all creases. Turn the chicken over, now breast side up. Same thing, season liberally with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. Again with the brush, baste the tallow throughout the entire bird, incorporating the spices and covering all parts of the chicken.
Now your bird is ready for roasting. Place the bird, uncovered, in a pre-heated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes a pound. Our birds are usually within the 4 pound range and take anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour. Noting that because the keel bone is removed and the chicken is butterflied, it will take less time to cook than a whole bird. Place a meat thermometer in the deepest part of the breast at a resting state and the temperature should read 165 degrees. Your bird is ready for carving and serving.
We enjoyed last nights bird with the last of the season’s sweet potatoes. Cut up the leftovers for chicken sandwiches, chicken pasta, chicken pot pie…and save the bones for stock to make soup, jook, and other broth based dishes. Happy chicken!