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Old 10-18-2010, 07:23 PM   #1
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Buying local chicken vs store

Recently, I purchased two different locally raised chickens from two different local farms. I probably should have prepared them the same way, but I didn't. I was trying to do a taste and quality comparison.

Chicken A - Was a bit smaller, and less meaty. I grilled it and it was nice and juicy, had a delicious flavor, but was almost chewy. Both the white and dark meat were tough, with the dark being more tough than the white. I did not marinate or brine it. Just cooked it in pieces.

Chicken B - A big bigger, and had a meatier breast. It wasn't like an oven stuffer roaster or anything, but definitely had more meat on it. This one I roasted whole - 1 1/2 hours in the oven. The result was close to the same, but just a little more on the tender side. The flavor was still delicious, and again, the breast more tender than the dark meat.

Ok - I probably should have cooked them the same way, but hubby wanted something different, having two chicken dinners so close together.

These are both farm raised chickens, that are raised similarly, outside on pasture, with no antibiotics, hormones, or other medications. They are processed onsite, in almost the same way, but by different farms. I was invited to visit and watch their processing methods, which I accepted. It's nice to see where what you eat comes from.

Chicken in the store is so tender, but has a different taste. It's almost like these local birds had a cleaner taste, for lack of a better term. Is this difference due to all the 'stuff' they give the chickens on production farms? Or is it the "up to a 10% solution added" part that affects the taste of the store chickens? It costs so much more to buy a chicken raised locally than one in the store, but there's that part of me that likes the idea that it's not been force fed, or fed all kinds of nasty stuff. I've been buying my beef local, and we process our own venison, so we've cut out a lot on that end. But we do eat a lot of chicken. So I'm trying to decide if it's worth it to pay twice as much for a tastier but tougher natural chicken. Can anyone chime in here?

Thanks!
SOB

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Old 10-18-2010, 10:07 PM   #2
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My guess would be that the difference in flavour is due to the "10% solution and the difference in feed. I imagine that running around outdoors makes the muscles less tender and tastier, than sitting in a cage and pecking at the cagemates as the only exercise.
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Old 10-18-2010, 10:09 PM   #3
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I buy local, natural chickens. I think it's worth it and we eat alot of chicken.
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Old 10-18-2010, 10:21 PM   #4
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This decision is one each person has to make. Only you and your husband can decide if you like the local chicken better overall.

Is it worth eating tough chicken to get better flavor? Or does the toughness outweigh the flavor?

Then there is the price factor. Is it really worth paying twice as much for chicken that you aren't sure you like better?

Commercially raised chickens are fed standardized feed that nourishes them and keeps them healthy. The 10% solution is basically a brine to keep the chicken from drying out due to overcooking.
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Old 10-19-2010, 08:37 AM   #5
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I buy local organic whenever I can find it. At double the price it is still less than two bucks a pound, and you are not paying for that 10% water. A little tougher, but far tastier.
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Old 10-19-2010, 09:08 AM   #6
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I raise my own chickens--put 22 of them in the freezer this summer. The texture is definitely different, but I wouldn't call them tough. They have actual muscles, unlike battery raised (even cage free) chickens. Commercial chickens have almost no room to move, so their flesh is fat and flabby. My little roosters, who spent their short lives running, chasing bugs and hens, have much firmer flesh.

I do cook them a bit differently. They are excellent fried or cooked in a sauce, but I don't care for them grilled or broiled--they don't have enough fat on them to keep them moist.

To me, the work and mess of doing it myself is worth it--I know what they have eaten, and I know they have had a pretty good life. I have been around commercial chicken operations, and that is no life for an animal.
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Old 10-19-2010, 09:24 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bigjim68 View Post
I buy local organic whenever I can find it. At double the price it is still less than two bucks a pound, and you are not paying for that 10% water. A little tougher, but far tastier.
I'm envious. Around here, $2/lb for chicken is when it's on special, and that's not for the organic stuff, or even the grain fed stuff
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Old 10-19-2010, 09:50 AM   #8
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I raise my own chickens--put 22 of them in the freezer this summer. The texture is definitely different, but I wouldn't call them tough. They have actual muscles, unlike battery raised (even cage free) chickens. Commercial chickens have almost no room to move, so their flesh is fat and flabby. My little roosters, who spent their short lives running, chasing bugs and hens, have much firmer flesh.

I do cook them a bit differently. They are excellent fried or cooked in a sauce, but I don't care for them grilled or broiled--they don't have enough fat on them to keep them moist.

To me, the work and mess of doing it myself is worth it--I know what they have eaten, and I know they have had a pretty good life. I have been around commercial chicken operations, and that is no life for an animal.
I'm with sparrowgrass, I don't see the chicken as tougher, but you do have to chew it...it has a pleasing texture and mouthfeel.
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Old 10-19-2010, 09:51 AM   #9
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I wish the local birds were only $2 a lb! I paid $3.50 a pound for each one. It's hard to swallow paying $13-15 for a chicken. I dont even like paying that much for a turkey once a year. You're right thought - we do have to decide. I did like the flavor - and wasn't sure if that was from the pasture, or from the running around free. These chickens are free during the day and pulled into a penned area at night for more protection from the foxes. So they do get a fair bit of running around. I hadn't thought about that. Sparrowgrass - you called the flesh firm. I think that's more like it - firm. I wish I had the knowhow and time to do it myself. We raise ours for eggs, but I am not opposed to eating them too, if someone else would do the processing. We tried it once and the meat was awful. We threw the whole dish out because the meat was so gamey. That's why I was hesitant to even try a local chicken.

Thanks for the opinions and information. We have some thinking to do.

Thanks again!
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Old 10-19-2010, 09:58 AM   #10
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I'll have to check the prices around here again on the organic whole chickens. Whole chickens intimidate me, cooking wise, but I need to get over it so I can start saving some money on the higher quality birds. We eat a lot of chicken. I make stock with the commercial leg quarters I buy (cheap) but sometimes it just tastes off and I wonder if it's because of the hormones and junk.

I think I would be willing to put up with slightly tougher meat as long as I wasn't paying too much more for it. I'd sure feel better knowing it was organic.
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Old 10-19-2010, 10:45 AM   #11
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Whole battery chickens here are .69-.89. Local range around $2.00, never frozen.
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Old 10-19-2010, 10:53 AM   #12
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Silly Old Bear--my mom, who was raised on home grown chicken, does not like it any more. She prefers storebought. Before you think about raising and killing your own, try a real chicken. You might not like them either.

I love wild game--pheasants, quail, grouse--and to me, real chicken tastes more like a wild bird. If you are not fond of stronger flavor and firmer texture, you will not like a chicken that spent its life running around and eating bugs and seeds.
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Old 10-19-2010, 10:56 AM   #13
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I'm the same way, snickerdoodle. I have made many a mess, trying to cut up a whole chicken. The one I cut up the other night ended up looking like some science experiment gone bad. But it still tasted good, and that is what hubby cares about. I could feed him something that looks like something the cat dragged in, as long as it tastes good. :)

The ones I got this weekend were not organic - they were free range. I think there has to be some specific guidelines for it to be organic. And I don't think they have to be free range to be organic. Someone else will probably know better.

I'm trying the leftover bird today in a pot for soup tonight. We'll see how that turns out. Right now it smells like heaven!

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Old 10-19-2010, 11:01 AM   #14
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Sparrowgrass - that's what these were - real chickens! :) And I definitely like the flavor. But then I like wilder taste of venison over beef, too. (wait - unless it's a perfectly cooked beef ribeye - with fried onions.. and mushrooms.. ) Sorry -

My two issues are the firmness of the meat - which I can get by - but not sure about hubby yet. And the other is cost. At 3.50 lb, that's a fair bit higher than the fryers in the store.. Depending on the sale, I can get a 4 lb fryer for anywhere from 3.00 - 5.00. That's a huge difference in price. That's my biggest issue - money. I like getting back to seeing where my food comes from. I just wish it was cheaper!! haha!

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Old 10-19-2010, 11:14 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by SillyOldBear View Post
Sparrowgrass - that's what these were - real chickens! :) And I definitely like the flavor. But then I like wilder taste of venison over beef, too. (wait - unless it's a perfectly cooked beef ribeye - with fried onions.. and mushrooms.. ) Sorry -

My two issues are the firmness of the meat - which I can get by - but not sure about hubby yet. And the other is cost. At 3.50 lb, that's a fair bit higher than the fryers in the store.. Depending on the sale, I can get a 4 lb fryer for anywhere from 3.00 - 5.00. That's a huge difference in price. That's my biggest issue - money. I like getting back to seeing where my food comes from. I just wish it was cheaper!! haha!

SOB
Money is my issue too. But, the more people buy local, the cheaper it will get. I have been buying (some) organic food since they started certifying it. I have watched the prices come down and the variety increase. I think it's time for me to find some local farmers.
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Old 10-19-2010, 11:32 AM   #16
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Money is my issue too. But, the more people buy local, the cheaper it will get. I have been buying (some) organic food since they started certifying it. I have watched the prices come down and the variety increase. I think it's time for me to find some local farmers.
The more people buy local, local farmers will have to increase production. In order to do that, they will have to have more efficient methods of raising larger quantities of chicken. The more that happens, the less the chickens will taste like they do today and more like what you get in the supermarket. It's already happened once...
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Old 10-19-2010, 12:17 PM   #17
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The more people buy local, local farmers will have to increase production. In order to do that, they will have to have more efficient methods of raising larger quantities of chicken. The more that happens, the less the chickens will taste like they do today and more like what you get in the supermarket. It's already happened once...
Or we'll need more farmers and farmland... I know - not so easy.

Question - you say it happened once - on what? Just curious. I hear that domestically raised deer taste less like their wild cousins. Is that what you are referring to? Again - just curious.

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Old 10-19-2010, 12:26 PM   #18
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The ones I got this weekend were not organic - they were free range. I think there has to be some specific guidelines for it to be organic. And I don't think they have to be free range to be organic. Someone else will probably know better.SOB
I'm fairly certain that one of the many requirements of being certified organic is that the chicken has to have access to pasture (aka free range) for x number of hours in a day... or something like that. I know that they don't have to be 100% free range in order to be certified organic though, which is contrary to what some people believe.

You could also ask some of your local farmers (at the farmer's market before they close for the season) about their chickens. Even though they might not be certified organic (it costs so much money to get it certified so many farmers can't afford it), their production standards may not be far off "certified" standards). You might get a better deal that way, not sure.
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Old 10-19-2010, 12:46 PM   #19
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...Question - you say it happened once - on what?...

Chicken.

Back in the old days chickens were raised as local farmers do today. Then as demand increased, local small farm methods couldn't keep up with demand. Eventually, that led to the large volume chicken raising methods in general use today.

The same is also true about all the major meats sold in the USA today - beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, salmon, shrimp, etc.

While it's pleasing to think about local small farms producing all our foods in a manner that is like the "good old days", it's not practical when you have over 300 million people to feed every day. (Not counting foods we export to other countries.)
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Old 10-19-2010, 12:54 PM   #20
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The more people buy local, local farmers will have to increase production. In order to do that, they will have to have more efficient methods of raising larger quantities of chicken. The more that happens, the less the chickens will taste like they do today and more like what you get in the supermarket. It's already happened once...
You know, you are right. I hadn't thought of that. But, there are other ways to get economies of scale. We have a service/co-op here that gets consumers to sign up for a weekly or biweekly deliveries of local, organic produce for the growing season. It cuts out the retailer, guarantees a market, and cuts deliveries to once a week.
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