Farmers Kitchen—Les poulets, s’il vous plaît
Written onJuly 03 , 2013
When we’re selling at a local farmers’ market or get a call ordering a CSA share, we’re often asked, “What is a French chicken?”
I, or my wife Rocio, will often say, “Well, it’s a chicken that speaks French and has a little pointy, black mustache,” but actually we’re referring to our certified organic Red Bro chickens. These delicious birds originated from France, where they are referred to as poulet rouge (red chicken) and are found under the label “Rouge” (Red Label). The Red Label in France indicates that the chickens had plenty of space, were raised on pasture, and had grass on which to forage. Of interest, though, is that they must also meet gourmet standards. In France, the poultry are tested every year by consumers in blind taste tests. They’re rated in comparison with other poultry on appearance, taste, and texture. There are also sensory profiles performed twice a year by a jury of trained experts.
We learned about this breed from a friend of ours who was raising them and who gave us one to try. At the time, we were pasture raising the very common Cornish Cross chicken (not exactly a breed developed for foraging on pasture). When we put our first Red Bro in the oven, we thought it could not get much better than what we were already growing, but one bite and wow! We were never going back. It’s now our children’s second favorite meat from the farm—after bacon!
Not only were we surprised by the taste of these chickens, we were also surprised by their performance as pasture-raised birds. For one thing, we had almost no loss or mortality among the young birds. Second—wow! Did these birds love grass! We discovered the Red Bros to be foraging machines. When they were moved to fresh pasture, they would forget about the grain and jump right into grazing. We figured we went from 15 percent of diet being grass (Cornish Cross) to at least 50 percent of diet being grass (Red Bro).
As “foodie” farmers, we were very excited; we were not only raising a bird with superior taste and texture, but one with superiority in nutrition. When animals forage on grass, the higher the nutritional value: higher levels of vitamins, lower saturated fats, lower cholesterol, and a balance of omegas 3 and 6 fatty acids.
Part of Applecheek Farm’s mission is “to be a model of sustainability and create healthy food that provides optimal nutrition and restores ecological capital within our soils, while providing space where community can come together to celebrate food.” Red Bro chickens fit right into that mission.
Applecheek Farm is a second-generation family farm in Hyde Park that sells beef, pork, veal, chicken, duck, milk, and eggs. You can find them at the Montpelier farmers’ market on Saturdays and the Stowe farmers’ market on Sundays. Or join their meat CSA and enjoy deliveries to Montpelier, Stowe, Waterbury, or Burlington. Contact: 802-888-4482 or applecheekfarm.com.