Although I haven’t seen any official results from the Chicken Choosin’ event at Ayrshire Farm on Monday, I did remember to bring my notes and scorecard to the office today … so I can tell you how the people voted. Celebrity judges scored their favorites separately, and I am not sure how the final results will be tallied. However, I can report on what the event invitees voted for … in the top three slots that is.
As I reported on Tuesday, the top tasting heritage chicken was the Dorking. This bird is known for its fine-textured, very white meat. It is also known to be docile, calm and adaptable. They are good foragers and would make a fine addition to most backyard or farmstead flocks. I actually gave the Dorking second place – by a mere quill to the Buckeye, which didn’t do well overall.
Second place honors were awarded to the Rhode Island Red and the commercial Cornish X Rock broiler cross. My second place choice was the Dorking. The CornRocks were raised with access to pasture the same way the other birds were … they were slaughtered at a younger age though because they wouldn’t have been able to survive much beyond 12 weeks of age. Rhode Island Reds are one of the most successful dual-purpose fowl out there. They are known for their hardiness and an uncanny ability to thrive and produce eggs in less than ideal conditions. They make excellent farmstead and backyard birds. The CornRock fowl were bred to gain weight quickly – even their intestinal lining is thinner and more permeable – all the better to absorb nutrients. They have leg tendon difficulties, may die of heart attacks, thinner feathering and difficulty getting around. CornRocks are not the best birds for a sustainable flock but they are pretty efficient at making meat.
Third place was also a tie – this time to the Dominique and the Buckeye. My third place choice was the Favorelle. The Buckeye has the honor of being the only American chicken breed created entirely by a woman. This dual purpose bird is cold hardy and shows very little fear of humans and is very committed to chasing down mice. The Dominique is recognized as America’s first chicken breed. Although it is used as a dual purpose breed it performs very well as an egg layer – hens typically produce from 230 to 275 medium-sized brown eggs a year.
Other heritage chicken breeds put to the test included Orpington, Plymouth Rock, Sussex and Delaware.
I can attest to the fact that all the fowl were tasty, due in part because of the way they were raised and processed, but also just because they are all chickens. But I now know that to say that something tastes like chicken really has little meaning, because not all chicken tastes the same.
The Chicken Choosin’ was sponsored by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, Humane Farm Animal Care, Slow Food U.S.A, Chefs Collaborative and Ayrshire Farm. If you care about good food check these folks out.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.
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