This spring I took my first shot at raising meat birds. For those of you that don't know, there are thousands of breeds of chicken (I think we have about forty) and each chicken serves a different purpose. So this spring, during one of our 3,643 trips to Farm & Home, I decided to purchase some meat bird chicks.
Meat bird chicks are traditionally Cornish Rock Crosses. (Not to be confused with a cornish hen.) Cornish X chickens have been hybridized for fast growth and economical meat production, making them unsuitable for keeping as pets or laying hens. They usually grow so big, so fast that their legs and hearts are unable to withstand their bulky size. Normally it isn’t a good idea to keep them much past their suggested butchering age of 8 weeks - 12 weeks.
So, we took good care of them, and at 12 weeks, it was time to butcher. With the help of a great guy who has lots of experiene AND chicken butchering equipment, I was taught how to butcher my own chickens humanely. 14 roosters and 8 meat birds were successfully processed.
Scroll down to see how our experiment turned out.
We decided to do a taste test to see if anyone could really tell the difference. So, we made sure the Jamison, Sangrias, and Stellas were stocked and we had a party and cooked three birds; a cornish x rooster, a heritage breed rooster, and a whole chicken from Aldi. I'm pretty sure it was my cousin Matthew's idea and he invited himself, his wife, mother, and a few friends. He did, however, bring lots of beer.
And really, we just like to have parties, and this excuse was better than the usual "Let's celebrate that the fact that the sixth child peed on the potty today", or "Let's have a party to celebrate that Matt finally painted over the crayon mural that Finnegan and Emmet made for mommy two weeks ago." Or "Celebrate that no one put a cell phone down the toilet today." (You get the idea...) This reason for a party seemed legit enough.
Since I am a vegetarian, I didn't personally partake in the taste test, but I heard the farm raised birds were hands down better. Here's what shoked me the most... No, it wasn't that my cousin Matthew offered to help AND left me a cooler of beer...
That Aldi bird? It had to have sooo many growth hormones to be the same size as my bird, because his liver, gizzard and neck were about 1/4 of the size of my 11 week old bird.
So in conclusion... In order to sell you chicken at a low price, large factory farms must find a way to raise these chicks in half the time using 1/10th of the space. Sooo, they pump them full of growth hormones and raise them in extremely small quarters. And that's what our families eat.
A simple suggestion... Don't feed those birds to your family. Buy from a local farmer.
And make sure to have extra Jamison around when your red-headed cousins come to dinner.