Recently, the Washington Post published an article on how much the Cornish Cross has changed in the past 60 years. If you have not read it yet, and wonder how this breed accounts for pretty much every chicken in grocery stores around the world then take a few minutes and do so. Setting aside some big reasons why we do not use this breed in our pasture production (welfare issues, it's development for vertical integrated corporate poultry farming, breeding chickens through artificial insemination, et al.) we want to talk a little about the alternative breed we employ to grow great tasting chicken on pasture.
Since our first year raising meat chickens we have used the Freedom Ranger. While this is still a fast growing breed, they get to market weight around 9 and a half weeks (compared to 6 weeks for the Cornish Cross) but the genetics and behavior on pasture could not be any different. Freedom Rangers share genetics with birds raised in the Label Rouge system in France which focus is on taste and raising chickens outdoors. Simply raising a chicken that is meant to be outside for 9 weeks means that they are on pasture twice as long as their traditional counterparts. This is because the birds are kept in a brooder for the first two to three weeks to keep them warm until they grow enough feathers to keep themselves warm. That gives the Freedom Ranger a full 6 weeks on pasture- picking at grass, eating insects, soaking in the sunshine and fresh air. It is better for the chickens, better for the pasture and better for us.
We absolutely love raising this breed and we could go on about why we think they are so great. Perhaps just fodder for a future newsletter.
Here is a link to a video on how some tips on cutting up chicken. Great as a primer or a refresher!
We hope to see you at the West Pawlet Market, Friday, March 27th.