The Great San Francisco Chicken Crisis
My Feathers are in a Right Old Flap
From last week's CUESA newsletter: "Beloved market mainstay Hoffman Game Birds announced that they will not attend the market in 2007".
After reading this mouthwatering post about her love affair with Hoffman chicken by Anita from Married with Dinner a month before Christmas, I resolved to get to know chicken a little better in 2007. We are not big chicken eaters in this household. We only buy it a few times a year. And when we buy it, yes, we
I can't vouch for the authenticity of this webpage I found, but it seems well informed. This is what I discovered about how the Hoffman's raised their chickens:
At their farm in the San Joaquin Valley, the Hoffmans raise about 100,000 birds a year in flight pens that measure 50' x 300'. All of the birds are raised from their own breeding stock. The feed is milled by a local feed mill to the Hoffman's specifications from fresh whole grains that contain no steroids or antibiotics. The birds are free to roam in the flight pens where they can also forage on native weeds and grasses that can grow up to 3-feet high inside the pen.Last week I was organised. I mean really organised. By Thursday I had scanned my new recipe book collection and decided upon a recipe for the potluck I would be attending on Saturday night. Heck, I had even written the shopping list, happy in the knowledge that I was making the most of one of my other private resolutions: to use up some of the things I already have in my pantry instead of buying new ingredients week after week. Yep, I was planning to make a chicken dish for a change.
So, then when I recieved the CUESA newsletter on Friday my feathers were thrown into a flap. With Hoffman gone, where would I buy good, well-raised chicken instead? I didn't know what I was going to do, it was too short notice to do find the time to do any research, but I resolved to go to the market as normal and just try The Golden Gate Meat Company or something. I wish I'd found these posts by Miss Steak & Dairy Queen on The Ethicurean before my trip because they give a good background to the dilemma:
1) Alas, Poor Rosie
2) A major clucking sound: The great Bay Area chicken shortage of 2007
3) Bay Area pastured poultry panic may be premature
Luckily for me, as things turned out, whilst I was perusing the frisee at Star Route, I couldn't help but eavesdrop on someone else's panicked no-Hoffman's-chicken conversation. "You can buy heritage chickens from Prather, but they are frozen", I overheard him saying to his friend. Hmm, I did not know that. I thought they just sold juicy beef and succulent lamb. So off I trotted to see the Prather guys, which is not really a hardship since they are all so cute and charming to boot.
"True Heritage Chicken cannot be found anywhere in the United States other than at a few farmers' markets. Thanks to Frank Reese, heritage chickens are available in significant numbers for the first time in 60 years."Prather assured me that Heritage Chickens are the best kept, well-looked after chickens available on a large scale in the USA. By large we are still talking small - Prather told me they were the only independent store selling these Heritage birds. So what makes them so special? Read to this statement from Heritage:
"While it is hard to judge an animal's happiness, we believe that if an animal is able to act out its natural instincts while it is alive that it is happy. This is why all the animals we sell live outdoors as nature intended and maintains a natural diet. Every product we sell comes with a traceable label that allows our customers to verify our claims for themselves."The downside is that they are frozen, not fresh, but I bought one all the same. It was just over $12 for a very small bird. I was really happy to find, once I had defrosted my chicken, that both the liver and giblets were included, especially as the recipe I had earmarked suggested using the liver too if at all possible.
But the problem is that Heritage chicken is from Kansas. Shouldn't I be buying local products? Should I buy Rosie's chicken from nearby Petaluma even though on her blog, Dairy Queen commented "“Rosie is a free range chicken, allowed to run and forage outdoors in an open-air, fenced area outside the barn.” Note use of the word “allowed,” as opposed to, say, “encouraged.” When Michael Pollan visited Petaluma Poultry, he saw not a single bird outside either time"? Or should I add to the air polution problem by driving over to Berkeley for my bird?
I guess it's something I am going to have to think about a little bit harder and a little bit longer. This surely is an omnivores dilemma...
PS - More about the bird and the recipe another day, this post is already long enough and rambling enough, even for me, and I wrote it.