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Free Range Birds - very disappointed

My wife and I have been trying "free range" Chickens and Turkeys from local farmers and markets for over two years. We thought because we loved the chicken we've eaten in the Islands and rural Central / South America, we could expect the same texture and intense chicken flavor here in Canada (so I think we know what "real" chicken tastes like).

I can honestly say we have been devastated by the poor taste and ridiculous prices ($5 - $7/lb). At best the birds have been similar to the supermarket birds (although, understandably, a little tougher) and at worst they have been completely inedible due to a rank fishy taste. Our only explanation is that it has something to do with the feed.

Last Thanksgiving we paid $85 for a medium sized turkey ! It was fresh, juicy, and tasty, but we won't do it again at those prices.

We'll continue to try (and possibly raise our own next year) so I'd love to hear from anyone with good experiences and recommendations.

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  1. Have you tried the chickens at Gasparros? Wondering what you think of those...

    1 Reply
    1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

      Or Sanagan's Meat Locker?
      http://www.sanagansmeatlocker.com/

      -----
      Vince Gasparros
      857 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6G, CA

      Sanagan's Meat Locker
      206 Baldwin St, Toronto M5T 1L8, Canada

    2. I recently had a chicken from Rowe farms...quite tasty but at almost twice the price of generic supermarket chickens not worth it

      1. That free range stuff is for suckers. It tastes no better than the regular stuff. As far as the claims that it tastes better, its in peoples' heads. Marketing studies show time and again that people rate products higher when they pay more for them.

        2 Replies
        1. re: evansl

          So people asking for a more just treatment of the animals they consume (e.g. not living in a 1x1x1 cage for their short life) are suckers?

          I can see your argument on taste -- chicken doesn't taste like much anyways, and I don't think free range birds are that much better. I can, however, justify spending a little more on chicken considering the animals involved.

          1. re: mateo21

            what an animal eats clearly influences what they taste like. whether the difference is enough to justify additional cost is a matter of personal taste.

        2. I say "go for it, raise your own". We do and have been for many years. Very easy. Once you do raise them yourself, you will know why they cost so much more. But, you'll also know what they ate, where they grew and were slaughtered and how they were treated. You can order chicks in Ontario at your local farm supply store, along with the feed and equipment (waterer and feeder)

          I'd have to disagree that we are suckers, because we do notice a huge difference in our chickens to the store bought ones. The flavour and texture also depend on the breed. We have dual purpose, heritage, and regular inbred cornish cross (broilers) that you buy in the grocery store. Huge difference between all of them in terms of how they taste and how long it takes to raise them (8 weeks for broilers and at least 12 weeks for dual purpose/heritage birds), and their final size . Raising them on pasture brings a lot of other challenges as well, mainly through predation (we have guardian dogs, therefore no predation), and greater physical labour investment (exercise to us). However, when friends ask if they could buy a pastured, free range roasting chicken from us and I say "sure, it'll cost about $40", they back off. There's a reason why commercially farmed chicken is cheap and I don't like those reasons and will raise my own instead. Often, when having uninformed guests over for dinner, we'll buy grocery store chicken because we don't want to "waste" our wonderful chicken on people who won't respect it. Our neighbour friends didn't understand that at all, until they raised their own and now do the same thing.

          4 Replies
          1. re: earthygoat

            I'd take a blind taste test challenge. Having recently been served battery cage chicken, I can say with certainty it tastes different once you've become accustomed to the good stuff. The flabbiness and poor skin quality are giveaways before you even sink your teeth into the funky smelling flesh.

            1. re: earthygoat

              I used to have a little backyard laying flock (not for meat, they were pets- they had names), and the little brats used to pillage my garden and help themselves to all the herbs in addition to bugs (in fact I'm pretty sure they preferred the herbs to the bugs). I would shake my finger at them and tell them they'd better be laying herb-flavored eggs, but they never did- does that ever happen? The omega-3 fish meal idea was what got me thinking about whether that happened with eggs as well as meat.

              1. re: earthygoat

                I definitely notice the difference and think it's worth paying more for a pastured-raised free-range chicken. So, earthygoat, as I'm often in your area I would love to stop by your farm to purchase a chicken and/or eggs. Would you mind telling me where you are located or let me know how I can get into contact with you off the board. Thanks!

                1. re: katiew

                  I've updated my profile. I get in trouble from the Chowhound Team if I mention selling products from my farm.

              2. The best turkey I have had was from Carson Bay Farms in Prince Edward County, they raise them from the egg and keep them in samll groups - great eggs and beef as well
                http://www.carsonbayfarms.com/