30 September, 2010

Local Chicken

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.


marc said...

"but it tastes like chicken.. 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."

Alan said...

Another GREAT article, Dave. I'm behind you all the way on local markets, when you find them. Back in the day, and still today I hear, up on Federal Hill in Providence, you can still pick out your chicken live, then carry it home in a bag ready for cooking. Growing up, my neighbor had his own chickens and did the dirty deed out back at the stone fireplace with a cutting board. Plucked 'em in a bucket of hot water. Life was simple then.
Now I need to find me a fresh chicken. I love "E. Coli & Sons". Sounds like a business where Homer Simpson might go to get his chicken.

Dave said...

Alan - One of the really great thing about Impoco's is that Tony very often has plenty of live birds available when you walk in, and I'm pretty sure he'd let you pick out a live bird if you want to.

Next spring I plan to have a chicken coop set up here so I can have a few hens out back. When that's done, the next time Tony has pheasants like he did this week, I'm going to ask him to set aside a cock and a hen for me alive so I can keep them to roam around the yard and eat bugs. I could eat 'em, I suppose, but I just get a kick out of looking at them.

marc said...

Did you get a pheasant? Was on my to do list...

Dave said...

No, I don't particularly care for pheasant as food. I'll buy a couple of live ones when I get the coop done, and keep them as living lawn ornaments. :)

cyrell said...

I wish people would prefer quality over cheapness.

If you want healthy, good tasting products you will surely not get them for dumping prices.

A commercial chicken is eating as much food in the 6 weeks from hatching to slaughter as much as a 150 pound grown up man.

Scary, isn´t it?

And all th factory farmed chicken rely on grain and animal meal to grow.

No clucking around and eating bugs and worms and seeds from the pasture..which also would give healthy and tasteful meat.

Sure you need to feed a bit of grain, but not as much as one of these monstermeat chicken.