My search for heritage chicken began in San Francisco about a year ago: I was looking for a heritage chicken at my usual grocery store, keeping my eyes peeled for a chicken that didn’t look obese - I wanted a chicken with diminutive breasts, and long legs - how heritage chickens are supposed to look! What I was able to find left me disappointed, as there wasn’t much variety for me to pick from.
Soon after however, I found my first heritage chicken online and my first properly cooked heritage chicken introduced me to real chicken flavour. Flavour is easily one of the reasons why I switched to eating heritage. After my first taste, I kept going back for more. The flavour of a heritage chicken is unlike anything I grew up eating. The taste is nuanced, it holds its own - I do not need to do anything complicated while cooking either; some butter, salt, and pepper is often enough.
Cooked with salt, in a base of chicken broth, rosemary, and carrots.
During my heritage chicken search I kept thinking about what I learned from a book called The Dorito Effect. I bought this book on a whim in an airport terminal en route to my honeymoon, and could not put it down. The author, Mark Schatzker, argues that flavour and health are undeniably linked. Although the taste is really what keeps me coming back now, the first and for me, the most important reason why I switched to eating heritage chicken was because it’s inarguably healthier.
Mark argues that when we start to eat foods that taste as nature intended for them to taste, we eat less because we are satiated more quickly. The flavours of conventional chicken have been altered over time since the priority of the companies that breed them is to maximize girth as quickly and cheaply as possible. Conventional chicken, especially its most popular part - the breast, is big, bland and dry. To compensate, we cover it up with sweet sauces, intense marinades, and rubs.
Signature roasted - with butter, salt, pepper, and baking powder.
Other compelling research I read indicated that a happier animal, living the life it was meant to live, and eating the things it was designed to eat provides healthier and higher quality meat. And your body absorbs the nutrients from higher quality meat sources much more readily. Heritage chickens are raised to live long happy lives, they stay outdoors on pasture - not in confinement.
And for me that means eating heritage is also eating in a way that is right for the earth. Raising heritage chickens requires that we put the earth first. The farmers allow the chickens lots of pasture to feed on and explore using as little resources as possible. The chickens give back to the earth as they feed on pasture by trampling and their droppings. Unlike factory farming, the cycle is sustainable.
Divya Pahwa is a recipe developer and wellness advocate. Her thoughts on food, nourishment, and health can be found at www.butterandghee.com. During the day she helps teach youngsters about eating sustainably at her local farmer’s market in San Francisco. She has been passionate about food and cooking since she was seven years old. Follow her on Instagram to stay updated: @divyahimangi.
Building a better food system is a community effort, so at Emmer & Co., we seek out partners who share our vision for the future of farming. Wild Idea Buffalo is one of the leaders in regenerative agriculture - the O'Briens have spent their lives restoring the grasslands through raising the most delicious, healthy, and free-roaming buffalo. And they were an inspiration to us when we began our journey. Because of our shared vision for a better food system that raises the right animals with regenerative practices that improve the soil and environment, they're proud to offer our heritage chickens to their community. What's better than the best prairie buffalo and heritage chickens? We can't think of anything. Together is always better.
There are a lot of buzz words out there when it comes to food. A Nielsen report I once read listed over 75 health and wellness claims by food manufacturers, including: low carb, all-natural, hormone free, cage free, free range, humane, and farm fresh. The majority of these terms can only be defined by the words themselves. “What does farm fresh mean?” “Oh you know, it’s a farm that produces food that’s really fresh!” That might sound laughable, but many food companies rely on unclear terms like these to hide the reality of their practices from consumers. They don’t want you to see behind their curtain.
We talk a lot about our heritage chickens, their genetics, and why raising pre-1950 breeds that grow in 112 days results in the healthiest meat, the best animal welfare, and most amazing flavor. Equally important is the way we raise our birds.
We love sharing heritage chicken recipes with our community, and have teamed up with Chef Jen Franco to develop ten delicious, seasonal preparations specifically created for our heritage birds. Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for the release of our original recipe book, full of methods that showcase true chicken flavor.
As Emmer & Co. works to rebuild the poultry industry, we seek out every opportunity to partner with people rebuilding other parts of the food system. RealGoodFish, a sustainable Community Supported Fishery that empowers local fishermen, shares our vision of providing the healthiest and purest foods, produced with practices that improve the environment. Our 100% pasture raised heritage chickens are now available in their CSF boxes. It’s partnerships like these - bringing together fans of the best poultry and the best fish - that create strong communities supporting and sharing the best food. Together is always better.
This month, Emmer & Co. was inducted into the RisingStar Chapter of OSC², a national community of thought leaders in the natural products field. We're honored to join these fellow mission-driven brands in tackling the toughest sustainability issues facing our world, and finding innovative and collaborative ways toward positive change.
The lives of Emmer & Co.'s heritage chickens are as close to wild as possible. But days and nights spent on the beautiful Northern California pastures come with the threat of predators. That's why flockdogs are a vital part of our regenerative, pasture-raising practices. Our newest litter of protectors was just born, and we'll soon be introducing them to their first flock of chicks. Stay tuned to our social channels and future Flock Talks for photos and videos of the pups' first days at work!
Heritage chickens make a hearty, flavor-rich bone broth that's packed with vitamins, nutrients, and minerals. But if you prefer to sip on something with a bit more pizzazz, here are four delicious flavor additions from Mark's Daily Apple to spice-up your stock.
Because of the deep, hearty flavor of heritage chicken you don't need much to cook a delicious bird. But if you'd like to try a new technique, we have some ideas. From tried-and-true cast iron skillets to chef-approved sous vide precision cookers, here are some of our favorite tools for cooking a heritage chicken to perfection.