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Jun 13, 2010 08:34 AM

Grass (pasture) Fed Chicken?

The thread on grass-fed beef got me started on this variant. A friend of ours, who lives nowhere near Center City,has raised pasture-fed chickens on his farm this year. He mentioned that he was forced to charge $3.86./pound for those chickens, due to the cost of feeding them. Wow, is that steep, but it made me so curious to have a taste experience, even at that price.

I no longer buy supermarket chickens, not willing to settle for anything less than a fresh Kosher chicken, or name brand from PA Dutch area.

What sources of chicken can you suggest that have the taste and tenderness to justify a steep price tag? At this point, I feel it is worth the expense.

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  1. OK, you got me. Grass fed chickens? I was waiting for a punchline mentioning hen's teeth.

    Where the chicken pecks its grain should not be an issue. They're not chowing down on the Kentucky Blue. If its free range on a sand bed or out on a grass lot, I don;t see how flavor and cost can be affected. They're eating the same stuff.

    Hey, its late and i'm tired. If I'm missing something here, please chime in.


    12 Replies
    1. re: Chefpaulo

      Pasture-fed chickens do eat grass, also other plants and insects. They do still eat grain, but not it's not 100% of their diet the way it is with chickens raised in a cage.

      1. re: Buckethead

        I buy chicken (and other meats) at the many local farmer's markets in the city, or at the Fair Food Farmstand in the Reading Terminal. It's been a long time since I bought a supermarket chicken, so I can't really comment on whether there's a taste difference. Often (though not always), the chicken is frozen, which is probably less optimal, taste-wise, than fresh. To be honest, it's more an an animal welfare issue for me, and I hope that the animals are treated better on these smaller farms than at factory farms.

        Of course, I'm still eating them...but we do what we can.

        1. re: Hansel

          Frozen chickens are actually fresher than the "fresh" ones you might buy at the supermarket, because if they are processed properly they are frozen at the peak of freshness and flavor. This is basically true of all meats and fishes: unless you are buying them within a day or two of slaughter/catch, frozen is your best bet. Of course this doesn't apply to aged beef.

          True pastured chickens do have a different diet than 100% grain fed. I notice the taste and texture difference in the eggs more than the meat, but the pastured chickens have more flavor; commercial chickens tend to be pretty bland, especially the breast. I don't think that pastured chickens are any more tender than grain fed ones; in fact, it may be the opposite especially because there is less control of the diet by the farmer.

          It's hard to say if the extra cost is worth it, but in the city I found that it is cheapest to get pastured eggs and chickens from your local, smaller farmer's market rather than a reseller like Fair Food or Green Aisle Grocer. Headhouse Square Farmer's Market has gotten really expensive so I rarely buy there anymore, but if you hunt around there are some reasonable prices.

          I personally think the eggs are well worth the extra price, because even though there is a 3-4x markup (or more for some labels at some resellers), we're still only talking about a few dollars and the difference in quality is stark. Ditto for fresh, pastured butter.

          1. re: barryg

            Thanks, Barry. No, there was no punch line here; I was serious. What i didn't say is that growing up in Trenton, N. J. I don't know where my Mother bought her fresh chicken, but I have never been able to approach the flavor quality in her chicken.

            Interesting that the taste difference in pastured eggs makes them worth the price difference! I'll have to look for those; we are egg lovers as well. My problem is that I've stopped really enjoying chicken: I miss the chicken of my childhood!

            1. re: Bashful3

              I don't know how old you are Bashful but there were dishes we actually stopped making when we couldn't get decent chicken anymore. My Mother always attributed it to the fact that the chickens weren't free range (since this was ages ago she said chickens need to eat bugs and gravel to taste good) and that they sell them too young (stewing chickens in particular). I switched to all free range meats and poultry a number of years ago and mostly purchase through Fair Food Farms for convenience. Giunta's also has some free range chicken - but not all.
              And yes, try the eggs, you will never go back to tasteless supermarket eggs again - and if you make mayonaise or custards you'll be amazed.

              1. re: Bigley9

                You can get "old chicken" at the Asian markets, or at least at the Vietnamese ones in South Philly. Terrible for roasting; great for stewing.

                1. re: barryg

                  ooohhh - I will have to try one! I keep trying to talk an egg farmer into selling me a chicken that has stopped laying. We use to stew the chicken, pick it clean and make this white sauce with carrots and I don't know what else, served it over rice - we just called it "Chicken Stuffs". I'd love to make that dish taste "right" again.

                  1. re: Bigley9

                    Then you will probably also love something else I have seen at the Asian market on Oregon Ave: A big, cloudy plastic bag of chicken meat and parts with a sticker slapped on it that says "Chicken Things" for like $0.99/lb.

                2. re: Bigley9

                  tee hee. Old enough to remember how good my Mother's chicken dishes were, not old enough to have forgotten stuff that happened so long ago. But, I find I almost never make chicken any more: too much disappointment. I never used to order chicken in a restaurant; maybe there are good places to order chicken; enjoyment without the fuss?

          2. re: Buckethead

            I never knew chickens ate grass. See what you can learn on the internet?


            1. re: Buckethead

              yes- I worked on a small organic farm and we used a method called the "chicken tractor" where we brought the chickens across fallow fields for about a week at a time, and they would peck at bugs and grass/weeds and scratch up the earth, making it softer and fertilizing it with their poop for the coming planting season, and then move on to the next section. I am not 100% sure but I would guess that any farmer describing their chicken as "pasture-fed" is trying to make a distinction between chickens that are actually interacting with grass and fields vs. "free range" which, legally, means very little - sometimes the "range" they have is very small, and they are still fed standard grain. As others in this thread suggest, the chicken may actually be less tender, since they have gotten more exercise, and be smaller in the breast and larger in the leg than a supermarket chicken. But marinate that thing and stew it, and it can be much more flavorful.

              1. re: bess

                The thing that really gets me about factory chickens is the lumps of fat in between the muscles, this is the result of total lack of exercise and atrophy of muscle structure. The commercial feeds are composed of the least expensive protein components, many of which are by-products of processed food production.

          3. Next to kosher chickens the ones at Whole Foods are our favorite. We can always tell the difference between their barn roaming or free range ones and the ones sold in supermarkets.

            1. The original comment has been removed
              1. We've been getting terrific chicken from MB Farview Farms. We get it at the Elkins Park farmer's market, but I think they are at a number of local markets, and also have their own farm store.

                The chickens we get are long and skinny, and the meat, even the breast, is much darker than any other chicken I've ever gotten. They are super-flavorful, perfect for stews and such.


                1. I've been getting chicken (plus turkeys, eggs, sausage, etc.) from the Lindenhoff Farm stand at the Oakmont Farmers Market in Havertown since it opened several years ago. They also deliver once a month over the winter months which is a real bonus.

                  It is so very much worth the extra money! These chickens taste like chicken. But because they do roam around and use their muscles they are not as mushy tender as supermarket chicken. I actually don't like the mushiness of the supermarket variety. And the eggs are wonderful. The yolk has this yellow-orange color that enhances anything you use it for. And of course, the flavor is greatly enhanced.

                  Here is the farmer's website:

                  And this is the link to the farmer's market:

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Carole

                    Interesting post. Lindenhof farm is not far from where I grew up. It was started by german immigrants K. D. Linde and wife, who came here after World War II. The oldest boy Gilbert (now an Engineer) was in my high school class. Axel, the current farmer, was the youngest boy, and was in my brothers class, which would make him about 50.
                    It was always known as a well run farm when I was young.
                    Glad to see they are doing well.