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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.

    CP

    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?

            CP

            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. 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.

              http://www.mbfarviewfarm.com/

              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: www.lindenhoffarm.net

                And this is the link to the farmer's market: oakmontfarmersmarket.org

                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.

                2. You may notice a shift from the language "free-range" to "pastured" among the farmers who are more committed to smaller-scale, natural poultry-raising techniques. That language is (I recently learned) because if you stay with the same conventional farming set-up, the same breeds of chickens, etc. and simply open the door to let the chickens range "freely," they don't actually range around anywhere. They don't get it; there's no change in conditions for the animal or in the resulting meat. "Pastured" is seems to be emerging as the preferred term, to denote the birds that ::really:: range and peck and eat bugs and worms and suchlike. A really good poultry farmer (whose farm was previously all conventional) told me this as they've been experimenting with letting their birds range, but discovered there was more to it than just opening the door for the birds.

                  Just about my favorite farmer in the world sells organic, totally pastured chickens and their eggs that will alter your idea of poultry forever. You can get Mountainview Poultry at the farmers markets at Headhouse Square, Clark Park and Phoenixville.

                  Other really excellent pastured chicken sources are:

                  Canter Hill Farm -- Bryn Mawr Farmer's Market, Upper Merion farmer's Market, Mill @ Anselma Market
                  http://canterhillfarm.org/

                  Hendricks Farm -- farm store Telford
                  http://www.hendricksfarmsanddairy.com

                  Forks Farm -- various local drop-offs/farmer's market dates
                  http://www.forksfarmmarket.com

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: Mawrter

                    Does anyone know about the chicken sold at the Newtown farmers market in Bucks County?

                    1. re: Mawrter

                      I recently got some chicken at Phoenixville from Mountainview and was shocked at how good it was. Not sure if it was how I cooked marinated and cooked it (over cherry wood), but it was insanely good (which made me feel much better about the steep price). I will be back again the next few weeks and will report back if the experience changes any.

                      Like many on here I am willing to pay double for a variety of reasons to not eat meat from the AckaME.

                      1. re: nolangti

                        I'm glad you had such a good experience. Have you noticed her chicken cooks a little faster, too? I'm ruined for conventionally produced chicken now. Oh, and Mountainview's hens aren't laying so much now, but once the heat backs off a little, try the eggs. They are seriously unbelievable.

                        1. re: Mawrter

                          I have just recently started exploring Clark Park's farmer's market since it is so close by. Is Mountainview there every Saturday? (I think I read somewhere that they alternate between Clark Park and Phoenixville)

                          I am trying to start a gradual switch away from conventional meats, but I'm finding that price is putting a damper on things. How much are Mountainview's chicken and eggs? Thanks!

                          1. re: jyuan

                            The price seems high until you realize that your appetite is far more easily satisfied with meat raised in accordance with nature. You can feed far more people with less, being happy to have more veggies to balance out the meat just as nature intended for us. I think our appetites seek nutritional value and we have far more hunger when the meats we eat are deficient in what we need.

                            1. re: susanl143

                              Yeah.... that sounds nice, but I don't think that's true. I buy my meat from a small family farmer who raises his animals sustainably and humanely and I've never noticed a different in appetite, either in me or the people I serve it to. If anything, people eat more, because it's so much better than what they're usually buying.

                              Yeah, the price is high. It's the price you have to pay for quality and ethics and social values. What I try to think is not that the price of sustainably raised food is high... but conventionally raised meats are artificially low, with a cost that doesn't show in dollars, but in less easily measured factors.

                      2. re: Mawrter

                        I buy my chicken, beef, eggs, milk and sometimes treat myself to cheese from Hendricks

                        their milk is raw, un homogenized from grass fed cows
                        their chickens can be spotted roaming around near the gravel driveway where you park your car

                        the eggs taste amazing and are BRIGHT orange
                        the chicken tastes.. well like CHICKEN... like chicken is supposed to taste before they started jamming them into huts 10,000 at a time pumping them full of GMO corn and antibiotics because of their cramped living conditions and hormones so that they go from a chick to "fully grown" in no time at all

                        yes it is more expensive... so we eat less of it and supplement our diet with vegetables, whole grains and legumes

                        1. re: cgarner

                          If you call ahead, you can also get pork from them. They aren't raising heritage breed pigs right now (they used to have a few), but get them from up in the LV. I got part of Boston Butt from a Berkshire pig to make pulled pork. They offered me the whole shoulder (something like 14 lbs) but ended up taking about 6 1/2 lbs of it. The flavor was incomparable. It's amazing how much more flavorful all the extra intramuscular fat makes the heritage breeds. Bob uses the pig to make some of his sausages, which are also highly recommended.
                          They do have goats, so you might be able to get some goat from them, too.

                          1. re: JohnnyKBar

                            @JohnnyKBar, since you've posted, I've tried their sweet Italian Sausage as well as their home made dried salami, home made pancetta and some ginger/scallion turkey sausage... AMAZING... every last bit of it. I saw a big goat leg roast and goat tenderloin... I've had goat before (Jamaican curry goat) but haven't cooked it myself... I'm too chicken...er, um too much of a fraidy cat... oh there I go again... too scared to try cooking goat myself!

                            1. re: cgarner

                              So glad you liked it. I love their salumi. Bob does a phenomenal job with it and does both really classical and also innovative ideas. If he's around (which is most of the time) he loves to chat about what he's got aging. He'll walk you around the aging cave and show off a bit. He had a whole leg of lamb curing about a year ago, but I didn't get back in time to see what became of it.
                              I haven't gotten over to try any of the goat, but might have to. I'm not sure I'd know what to do with it, but there's nothing like diving in.

                      3. I'm raising broilers here in NH who are being raised in total liberty. This term distinguishes them from the term free range, who merely need an open door to a grassless chicken yard. My chickens are running across the lawn right now, eating grass, seeking bugs, and have even been raiding my berry bushes. They are not the same old cornish crosses everyone raises ( who die of collapsed legs if not slaughtered by ten weeks of age) but a French breed that are supposed to be the most delicious of chickens. These chickens are real chickens and if they aren't killed will lay eggs and have babies. I'm also feeding them organic grain which costs a fortune. I'm selling them for $6.99 a pound and there isn't much profit in that price. My hope is that these chickens will not only taste as good as the real chickens of yesterday year but taste even better.

                        My guess is that from all the running around they do, they will be less tender than a supermarket chicken, which I find mushy in texture. Unless you don't have teeth, I think a little chew to meat makes it tastier. They will be young, so tender that way but being raised to the French standard of Lapel Rouge, which requires them to be at least 12 weeks old when slaughtered, they will be flavorful -- not mushy.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: susanl143

                          OMG! $6.99/pound for chicken! I am not shocked, so much as encouraged to persist in finding local sources of REAL chicken, even if not the optimum free spirits of an unusual breed that you are raising.

                          But, re all the comments about this kind of chicken being less tender, I think it's a matter of chicken having an appropriate texture for chicken. The stuff that gets fed marigolds or whatever to make them yellow has a mouth feel like mush. I'm sick of it!

                          1. re: susanl143

                            If you were local, I would SO try your chicken! Sounds delicieux!

                          2. http://www.rumblewayfarm.com/

                            I buy mine from Rumbleway Farm. At $3/lb, it's the best deal I've found. Of course, I live in MD only half hour from them, but it's not that far from Philly since I go out to Philly to eat every once in a while.