When was the last time you tasted chicken? I'm not talking about the bloated, watery battery-raised birds from Perdue or Tyson here, I mean real, locally-raised and freshly-processed chicken, the kind your grandparents might have had back when most poultry was raised on small farms a stone's throw from their house.
Late last week, I stopped at Impoco Poultry Market to pick up a couple - of all things - beef tongues (more on that later) and while I was there I bought one of his locally-raised broilers for supper. His chickens come from his own poultry farm right here in the Connecticut River Valley, and they are killed and dressed on the day of sale - minimal processing, no shrinkwrapping, and no sitting around a supermarket display case for days or more. I took the bird home, cut it up, and grilled it over an applewood fire.
The difference between Tony's chicken and standard supermarket chicken is striking. The juicy white meat is firm and solid, and the dark meat is dark the way it's supposed to be, not pale and limp. And not to be a wiseass, but it tastes like chicken. Factory agriculture might have done wonders for food production, but that often comes at the expense of flavor, and the washed-out flavor of commercially processed chicken is a great example of that. And here's the kicker: the price for one of Tony's awesome chooks is comparable to the supermarket variety.
Small markets like Impoco highlight the best reasons you can find for buying food grown in your own area. I know that's not always practical - hell, if I had to rely on New England-only food, we wouldn't see a green vegetable on our plates from November to June - but every time you make a decision to buy veggies at the farm stand on your way home from work, or go a few minutes out of your way to a place like Impoco to buy a chicken, or stop at a neighborhood butcher for a couple pounds of fresh ground beef ground right there and not eight hundred miles away at E. Coli & Son's Industrial Meat Processing Plant, you are not only helping yourself eat better, you're helping your community by helping local agriculture remain viable.
About those beef tongues:
I've had a jones lately for corned tongue, but not a strong enough jones to pay $10.95 a pound for one at ShopRite (that's not a typo, that's the real price!) Tony sometimes brings in specialty meats at the market and announces the availability on the store's Facebook page, and when he mentioned that he'd have fresh beef tongues for $2.00 a pound, I was there right after work, buying two.
Right now, they're brining in the fridge. In another couple days, I'll simmer one to perfection in a pot of broth, and smoke the other one to tender delightfulness. And I'll have full instructions with plenty of photos for you in a brand new post.