Why I Eat Heritage | Divya Pahwa | Community Voice Posted on 01 May 16:31

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.