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Jun 1, 2012 02:08 PM

Pastured meat in Greater Boston

Anyone know where to get pastured chickens (or game hens, quails, pork) and pastured eggs around Boston, or inland in the surrounding cities? I'm moving to Boston soon and am looking for the real deal, raised in the pastures, eating bugs off the grass, not the "free range" stuff nor bland and inedible Cornish Cross chickens. Maximum 1 hour drive from Boston would be great. Actually, anyone know where to buy some game birds or pork/ boar would be great too.

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  1. They sell out almost immediately at the beginning of the season in March, but if you get on the mailing list, they will let you know when they open sales again next year. Pete and Jen's Backyard Birds in Concord. They have Cornish Cross, but also Freedom Rangers which is what I usually get. They have more dark meat and a stronger chickeny flavor. You can also check with Stillman's farm. They have a meat CSA and they sell at farmers markets around Boston. I think their chicken is pastured, but I don't know the breed.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mwk

      I second Pete & Jen (And they actually still have Freedom Rangers for the July pick up!)

      I've never had their pork sampler before, but I put in my deposit for the large one for the first time this year. They let the pigs be pigs and forage and whatnot. Super excited. And, best of all, I think it's very reasonably priced. 20 pounds for $189. A little more than 9 bucks a pound for pastured pork? Yes, please.

    2. Chestnut Farms does a meat CSA (chicken, pork, beef, and lamb, and sometimes goat too) and sells at several farmer's markets, too. Their eggs are amazing.

      7 Replies
      1. re: gimlis1mum

        Nothing like an orange yolk to start off the day. On the other hand, I've never been good at committing to CSAs. Do they sell at any stores nearby? If not, do they have the entire selection of meats at the farmer's markets, or just a select few?

        1. re: Frouss

          Sorry, I don't know what they offer at farmers markets, we've only done their CSA.

          There's a meat vendor at the Winchester farmers market, I forget the name, but they had a good variety of stuff. You had to get there early though - there was a mad rush as soon as they'd open.

          A different vendor at the same market had eggs, I remember they were very good but can't recall the name of that farm, either. sorry!,

          1. re: Frouss

            I've always figured that "the good stuff" goes to the farmers markets as even when I get "the good cuts" they're clearly from the lesser end of the good cut. That said, I have been fairly happy with them. Their pork & chicken are great, I'm less wild about the beef.

            I was buying the eggs for a while, but too many people couldn't tell the difference in blind taste tests so I figured my thinking they were better was psychosomatic.

            My main issue is that whoever does their butchering must be blind ... it is ... "challenged" to say the least.

            1. re: jgg13

              I agree with much of jgg13's comments regarding Chestnut Farms.

              The chicken tastes like chicken (rather than being an invisible vehicle for sauces) and typically you get either a whole chicken, a whole breast, and/or mixed parts. It's very good and on par or better than what we typically get at Whole Foods in terms of flavor and texture.

              The pork is very good though sometimes their sausages a little dull. The occasional ham-steak is a pleasant surprise.

              We haven't received enough lamb to form an opinion.

              The beef steaks are hit or miss. As jgg sates, the cuts are sometimes a bit wonky. The flavor and texture are generally good, but you rarely can replicate steak house results. They are fine for a quick dinner on a Tuesday night.

              However, the ground beef is worth singing and dancing about. In fact I am salivating right now just thinking about the burgers. I don't know what ratio of what cuts go into the grind, but it results in the best ground beef for burgers I've ever had. I'd stay in the CSA for this alone.

              Sorry to tangent! Good luck with the chicken hunt, Frouss.

              1. re: Area Man

                Good point on the sausages. I'd throw the bacon in that category too. They really seem to think that people go wild over their sausages, and maybe they do - but I prefer just taking their ground meats and/or grinding the various meat chunk pkgs and making my own sausage out of it.

                Speaking of the ground beef - I like it, but I don't know how people make burgers out of it. I've always had bad luck with pre-frozen ground beef & burger making and their packages are no exception. I usually just grind up the beef stew meat they give when I want burgers. That said, any other time that I want ground beef, I love it.

          2. re: gimlis1mum

            If the OP doesn't want Cornish Cross then Chestnut Farms might not make them happy. I didn't know anything about this until now (and have no complaints about the breasts I get in my share), but their latest email newsletter discusses their chickens:
            "Our meat birds taste great! I think I am one of our biggest fans – but it is hard to raise them. We raise Cornish Rock Cross which is a chicken bred especially for its large breasts (chicken breasts, gentlemen!!) and meaty legs. It is very different from a laying hen or even some of the older varieties of meat birds like the Freedom Rangers. They have a great grain to meat conversion ratio and are easy to raise with little mortality as long as the barn cats stay away from them when they are poults. However, they grow so quickly that their feathers sometimes barely cover their body and they literally waddle from water to food to grass or pen to lie down. It really is almost as if they are a different species. . ."

            1. re: annejudge

              I saw that email too, and like you, had no prior idea what their breed of chickens were. I e been happy with how the chicken tastes, but then I used to buy whatever was in sale at Stop and Shop :-)

              I like their eggs, and though I haven't compared the taste directly to other eggs I see a big difference in the color of the yolks.

              I think their lamb is wonderful. You don't get much of it, and only some months of the year, but we've had a couple of small racks and those little chops that were just divine.

              ETA: a chicken aside, if anyones interested. We were watching an episode of Julia Child's original series and she was talking about chickens. she said that you could tell how old your chicken was by feeling the tip of the breastbone. In older chickens, it has calcified completely; those chickens should be stewed or braised. In younger chickens the breastbone is still cartilaginous -I think she said that about bone at the top, changing to cartilage halfway down was the optimal age for harvesting a chicken to be roasted. So I checked out some of the whole chicken we've gotten from Chestnut Farms and they do have flexible breastbones. Maybe that's a difference in their taste?

          3. MF Dulock is going to open in Somerville ina few months..


            4 Replies
            1. re: 9lives

              Although oddly what little preliminary info there is on the website mentions a variety of meat, all pastured, but no poultry.

              1. re: Allstonian

                You're right, no poultry mentioned.I would guess that they will carry some type of locally raised poultry.

                I currently buy most of my chicken at Savenor's. They sell chix from Misty Knolls Farm in VT which are fantastic. Giannone is another good brand though it's in Quebec and not local. Sav's also carries a VT bred beef from Boyden Farms.

                A CSA or trip to a farm isn't really practical for me; but I've bought at Stillman's? and some of the other farmers markets around town.

                  1. re: almansa

                    He doesn't have a source yet, but if he gets one, it will probably be special order / monthly. The short answer: "not likely." I'm pretty darn excited for the shop, myself.

              2. I know you didn't really ask about beef, but the thread title may drag in some beef-eaters. So allow me to mention River Rock Farm beef, from Brimfield, MA. They sell direct and at some farmers markets. I know Davis Sq. (Somerville) and Brookline are two, though there are many more. They also sell eggs through Dave's Fresh in Davis Square, which I think also carries their beef. It's tremendous stuff, and they are now fully recovered from last summer's tornadoes. (I don't know the owner, but the folks who run it are friends...he adds in the interest of full disclosure.)

                2 Replies
                1. re: headmaster

                  It's delicious ( I say as a friend of John Konove, RIP). However, it's not entirely pastured as there are corn troughs in pastures 2 and 3 to get the animals to fatten up. Corn's not the problem, though. That's a big misconception. Silage is the problem, and they don't feed silage there.

                  1. re: almansa

                    That's an interesting issue that I wasn't aware of. But I wonder if corn is a problem.

                    I had some Stillman's beef yesterday, and was a bit disappointed, comparing it with other grass-fed beefs I had. The fat profile just didn't taste as good (i.e., it tasted more like store-bought meat) and I wondered if it wasn't quite as grass-fed as others I've tried.

                2. So I just recently received my "Pork Sampler" from Pete and Jen's Backyard Birds and we had some pork chops last night. They were really tasty. Juicy and tender and they had some noticeable marbling on them which really added to the flavor, I think. Definitely want to get some more once we work our way through the first 20 pounds.