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Oct 11, 2009 07:50 PM

Farmers Markets - Live Chickens

Been to the Allemany markets on several occasions and lately been frequenting the Civic Center Farmers Market. I have seen plenty of live chickens being sold off to the sides. What is the story here? What kind of chickens are they using? Are the people purchasing these chickens typically bringing them home, slaughtering themselves and cooking? I spoke with one customer today who indicated that he was going to freeze one which seemed self-defeating since the entire purpose was to have them fresh. How are these chickens being slaughtered in this environment (not a farm), whats the size, anybody had them and any good? Please advise.

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  1. Been going on longer than the farmer's markets. Check out Stockton Street in Chinatown and they're selling live chickens, so people must be slaughtering them in their apartments.

    1. There have been a few discussions about this. The live chicken is put in a plain paper bag, taken home and dispatched by the customer.

      My favorite story, which might be an urban legend, is someone getting on a bus and being told by the driver, no live chickens. The person reached in the bag, strangled the chicken and boarded the bus.

      Since I had a problem killing a live oyster from a fish market, a chicken is beyond what I could handle.

      The prices seem good and from what I;ve seen the birds are big and there are asorted breeds. So price rather that freshness would might be a motivating factor to the freezer guy ... lord, hope he didn't put it in the freeze to kill it.

      1. Take it home, hang it upside down, slit its throat. Doesn't get any fresher.

        20 Replies
        1. re: alanbarnes

          I've obviously seen them dropped into a regular brown paper bag, but are they any better than a decent quality store bought bird? I can imagine any number of ways to slaughter the bird, but its not like we live in the country here. Are they any more fresh? Just curious to know more.

          1. re: poulet_roti

            You talking about a "freshly" killed store bought bird, or run of the mill chicken in a package at Safeway? There's a big difference in flavor of a freshly killed chicken.

            Not like living in the country thing for people in the's like doing a load of laundry to them...just a part of preparing dinner.

            1. re: poulet_roti

              Look around and there are lot's of places that sell freshly killed poultry...might be a Chinese, Mexican or Kosher place.
              You don't have to do anything but go in and buy the whole chicken or parts. It's probably been killed within the last day or you can pick one out and they'll take it in the back and kill and dress it for you and you just take it home like you would from Safeway.

              1. re: monku

                Okay, fair enough. No, I haven't bought a chicken at Safeway in the past several years. Then again, haven't slaughtered my own bird either. So now that we've established that

                Regarding freshly killed chickens, I have not noticed that several places advertise "freshly killed" chickens. I purchase many chickens at New May Wah in the Richmond, and never really thought they were just slaughtered in the back. In fact, since they are listed as Vikon Farms chickens, I have done a bit of research on the chickens.

                so I'll go back to my original question, does anybody know the background of these chickens - are they any better, taste, how are they raised, quality that the chickens you may be purchasing at Safeway?

                1. re: poulet_roti

                  Having grown up eating freshly killed chicken and being basically a city boy, my mother always seeked out freshly killed chicken and it might have been at a Kosher poultry market (we're Chinese). There was a difference in taste that I could taste when I was a kid. Back then there was no such thing as free range chickens or anti-biotic free chickens like Vikon. Think VIkon chickens are raised down here about 50 miles east of Los Angeles, so they may be a week old by the time you get them. There's still a difference in taste no matter what the chicken's background when it's freshly killed.

                  That chicken you're buying at Safeway that says "fresh" is easily a week old.

                  I'm sure the chickens at New May Wah aren't freshly killed in the back . A fresh kill poultry market has to have special areas to keep and kill the chickens, so it wouldn't be something you could get at a regular Chinese grocery store. I don't recall any fresh/live poultry market on Clement Street, but I'm sure there are several in the city.

                  1. re: monku

                    I could be wrong, but I don't believe there are any kosher butchers in the bay are outfitted to fresh kill poultry on site while you wait, they're probably coming from a kosher slaughterhouse. As to the question of freshness, unless there's a kosher law on expiration dates, it would depend on how frequently they ordered a delivery just like any other butcher.

                  2. re: poulet_roti

                    The quality of a chicken depends not only on how fresh it is, or how the chicken was raised, but how it's processed. "Supermarket chicken" is processed by cooling the carcasses after slaughter in huge vats of water. This (1) washes away some of the natural flavor, (2) allows the chicken to become waterlogged (more profit for the processor if they can sell you water at chicken prices), and (3) allows for cross-contamination between chickens. None of this will be true of a chicken that's slaughtered "by hand" and processed individually. Some premium brands of chicken are "air chilled" -- the difference between air-chilled chicken and "Safeway" chicken in both texture and flavor is noticable. My sister moved and had to change butchers, and went from air-chilled chicken to a local brand of organic chicken that is not air chilled and she was shocked by how much more water the latter produced when she dry brined it compared to the air-chilled.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      As another aside re: kosher chickens, cold water is required as part of the process.

                2. re: poulet_roti

                  "are they any better than a decent quality store bought bird"

                  Not sure what you mean by a "decent quality store bought bird." If you're comparing to the Tyson's / Foster Farm chickens, yeah, they're better. Most places sell breeds that are more traditional - smaller, leaner birds that are less, um, buxom. They taste more like chicken.

                  As far as freshness, there's no comparison. You don't have to live in the country. You can easily slaughter a chicken in the kitchen of your apartment. The trick is to keep it calm so it doesn't splatter blood everywhere. Again, hanging it upside down helps a lot.

                  But I wouldn't call a bird "freshly killed" unless it was alive when you first saw it. Plenty of wet markets will do the deed for you. Pick out one you like and get it back a few minutes later. The great thing is when they have a plucking machine - it's like a clothes washer full of rubber fingers that makes a minute's work out of what's otherwise a tedious (and smelly) process.

                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    Guys, I would venture a guess that I have cooked more chickens than 98% of the people on here. Furthermore, I do know quite a bit about the difference between air chilled chickens, natural chickens, free range chickens, organically fed chickens, heritage birds and Foster Farms chickens.

                    My real question is about the story of these chickens. They are obviously not "freshly killed" as they are purchased live. I suppose they could be "freshly killed" if the slaughter were performed at home. They are obviously not air chilled as they are alive when purchased.

                    Obviously, they are going to be more fresh than anything else. Nevertheless, if not a good quality chicken, well fed and raised, freshness doesn't really matter, right? A poorly raised and fed but fresh chicken is still worse than a well raised and well-fed bird that may have been slaughtered 3 days ago, right?

                    1. re: poulet_roti

                      I couldn't say because I've never had a freshly slaughtered Vikon chicken (3 days old or less). I have had many freshly killed chickens and I'm sure they weren't the kind of chickens you're looking for (probably questionable raising), but they were all very good and flavorful.
                      I suggest you try a freshly killed (1 day or less) chicken and see if you notice a difference in the taste. Don't get so hung up on the their upbringing. Just try it once and see if it's worth it then you can look for a well raised pedigree chicken.

                      1. re: monku

                        Fair enough, will go find one sometime and have it freshly killed and will prepare it and report back. Thanks for all your input.

                        1. re: poulet_roti

                          Should I assume you'll be making roast chicken?
                          I'm sure you'll notice the difference.

                      2. re: poulet_roti

                        With all your experience, shouldn't you already know the answer? I'm not sure what your point is. As I was pointing out, freshness is not the only difference between a chicken that's killed at home and a "decent quality" (whatever that means) supermarket chicken.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          Perhaps you're right, but thats why I am inquiring, because I don't know about these chickens.

                          1. re: poulet_roti

                            Live chickesn are sold at the Richmond farmers market. I've been wondering about the selection process. So, I've started a post on the General Topics board, thast may or may not answer some of your question

                            How to select and ... um ... deal with a live chicken from the farmers market?

                            1. re: rworange

                              Thanks, perhaps the words selection process was better way of conveying the question that I am asking as well. Thanks.

                              1. re: rworange

                                Humorous take on the preparation of live chickens as a chow tip. Cue the video.

                          2. re: poulet_roti

                            While chicken isn't as delicate as fish, many of the same things occur over time...change in texture, smell, taste, decay, etc.

                            If all things are equal in quality, the difference over time with chicken is less dramatic then fish but chicken but the same stuff applies. Like fresh fish (most not all), fresh chicken has a more delicate taste and texture. The chicken-y taste is clearer, less degraded, the texture is more delicate.

                    2. Quick Google and I found a live poultry market.
                      Sounds like it's been there for many years. Go check it out. They will sell already freshly killed chickens or parts by the pound or you can pick one out a live one and they'll kill it for you or you can take it home and "dispatch" it yourself.

                      On Sang Poultry
                      1114 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: monku

                        On sang has vAcated that address, as reported here.

                        I've posted on freshly killed chickens before, if you have more patience than I w/ searching site.

                          1. re: wolfe

                            I believe Man Sung on Grant Avenue kills chicken on site or at a off site location and is my choice for fresh chicken. I no longer kill my own. We used to buy live birds for food but as I get older I have lost my desire to do so much extra work.

                            A couple of store front down have all kinds of live birds.

                            Man Sung
                            1116 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA

                            1. re: yimster

                              My friend's mother goes here to buy the live birds and they will kill it for you.

                        1. re: monku

                          I am not sure if it is still open, but Bay Game Birds on 20th avenue (20th between Irving and Judah) has all sorts of live poultry (ducks, hens, geese, etc) that you could pick out and they would clean and dress it for your (more expensive) or you could take it home live (less expensive).

                          I haven't been by their in a few years though, so i don't know if it is still open, but they have a phone number online you can check : 1 415.731.3268

                          1. re: jupiter

                            Game birds is pretty specific. Did they really have chickens?

                            1. re: wolfe

                              S/he mentioned capon in the choice list, which is a young chicken. I'm sure if they carry the other stuff they'd have chicken too.

                              1. re: SteveG

                                The real question, since the post is several years old, is the place still there? The address given for Game Birds is 1317 20th and the google street view shows a store named Audio Performance.

                            2. re: jupiter

                              That number goes to an answering machine that says it gets frequent wrong numbers. Not Bay Game Birds.

                          2. It's llike having live seafood from a tank at Chinese restaurant compared to eating seafood you'd get at Red Lobster. There's a noticeable difference.

                            2 Replies
                              1. re: monku

                                And one more ........ been awhile since I've shopped here but they used to be a good source for whole ( head on) ducks also.
                                T & S Market
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                                323 9th St
                                Oakland, CA 94607-4211
                                (510) 268-1155‎

                                Get directions: To here - From here