Sunday, October 19, 2008

Free Range Chicken

I have been doing a lot of reading about food over the past several years. Fast Food Nation, The Omnivore's Dilemma, What to Eat, The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter. All of these books lead me towards eating foods that are fresher, organic, local, and sustainable. I've learned a lot about factory farming, feedlots, the egg business, the dairy business. While I still do not have a moral problem with eating meat (I did grow up in a hunting family), I would like the meat I do eat to have a reasonably happy life.

Over the years our meals have gotten more and more vegetarian and vegan, and more and more local. We've been members of our local CSA for about 8 years now. We shop at farmer's markets and farm stands. The one area that I haven't gone yet, however, is local, free-range meat and eggs.

There are two main reasons for this: 1. I am frugal. Growing up in a large, rural, poor family, I sometimes cannot bring myself to spend more than I need to on something. And free range meat is expensive. 2. I don't eat very much meat or eggs. So I rationalize it by saying: "if we only eat one chicken and one roast a month, does it really matter?"

In any event, I finally made the leap this weekend. We had friends over for dinner, and I bought a chicken from Lily's Chickens (they also sell eggs) at the farmer's market. One 3 to 3.5 pound chicken is $12. Generally, I buy my chickens on sale at the grocery store, for $0.59/pound. One chicken is about $2.50 for 5 lbs. So the free range chicken is more expensive and a lot smaller.

I simply roasted the chicken using the Roast Sticky Chicken recipe from It was enough to feed the four adults and two toddlers present, with maybe a little leftover for a sandwich. I completely forgot to save the carcass for stock. But boy, was it good. We could honestly taste the difference. Now I know why my Chinese friends talk about how tasteless American chickens are - they are used to free range. My husband said "we're buying this stuff from now on."

We will probably continue on the path of eating less meat and making more of it local and free range. Because after all, we can afford it. Not everyone can. And I figure if I support my local farmers, maybe it will become more affordable for everyone else. (It also makes us less dependent on Big Agriculture). Next time I need eggs, we're trying their eggs. Not cheap at $4 a dozen.

All in all, our dinner - which included a salad with organic greens, pomegranate seeds, apples, and avocado, the chicken, and aloo gobi (Indian curried potatoes and cauliflower from World Vegetarian) by Madhur Jaffrey, cost about $25 - including the snacks (hummus and guacamole) that our friends brought. Much healthier, cheaper, and tastier than eating out!


Hdragon70 said...

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Marcia said...