Cornish Cross or Heritage Chicken: Which Do You Prefer?

| 6/7/2010 4:14:28 PM

Cornish cross chickens 

Opinions on the best chickens to raise for meat vary greatly, depending on who you ask. There are two primary options: Cornish cross (aka Cornish Rocks) and heritage breeds.

Cornish cross have been bred to produce meat quickly and efficiently. They reach slaughter weight in about seven weeks. Without a restricted diet and careful management, they are unlikely to survive more than several months. There is a common misconception that these birds are genetically modified. The truth is that they’re the result of highly selective breeding. The parent stock can reproduce without artificial insemination.

Heritage chickens are standard-bred chickens that grow more slowly (they take 16 weeks or more to reach “market” weight) and live much longer. Some people say heritage chicken meat is more flavorful, although it must be cooked differently; others say it’s tough.

There is a third option: chickens that fall somewhere between heritage chickens and Cornish cross. These birds, such as Freedom Rangers, are large enough to process in about 10 weeks. (Since writing this in early 2010, my opinions have changed. See Wrong About Freedom Rangers for more information.)

Deborah Boehle did a side-by-side comparison of the carcasses of Cornish cross and heritage breed chickens: Chicken for Dinner? and Chicken for Dinner? Part 2. She clearly favors the heritage breeds, both for flavor and the experience in raising them.

12/1/2015 7:13:42 PM

Ok I have eaten cornish hen for a long time but never know that there were other type of bird like this,get to try it,I just read a news report about a guy down here in Fla raising Cornish Cross Chicken which I did some research which get me here,good insight.

Alicia Finley
1/5/2013 8:59:24 PM

I have had great experiences. I raised approx. 3000 Cornish X this year ON PASTURE and on organic grain. We started day-old batches, in our light-filled, open ventilated barn, of 100 chicks in 8' x 4' boxes that were then expanded to boxes double that size during the 2 week. They were kept on dry beds of wood shavings and often brought bunches of grass to them inside the barn. The birds were always active, noisy and when allowed outside, foraged naturally and aggressively and continued this when moved permanently outside at 3-4 weeks of age. They even climbed up into the buckwheat bushes to forage. The birds were beautiful, friendly and brave in that they would allow you to pet them and pick them up. The birds tasted amazing, were firm not mushy, and were very popular at 4 farmers markets they were sold at every week.

Sally Green
8/14/2011 1:44:44 AM

CX are great. I've never had problems raising them. I've raised as many as 50 at a time. I process at 8 weeks. I make the appointment with the processor the day I for 8 weeks from their hatching date. I supply them with Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth to roll in and put a bit in their feed. I have not used organic AC Vinegar but I'm going to try it next time around. I hang their water and food feeders. I raise them as the chickens grow. It makes them have to stand and stretch to eat and drink, builds muscle in their legs and helps keep the breast off the ground. I've never had a problem with them not eating or drinking. I believe it's instinctive. I don't like eating my laying hens. It's hard to eat something you call mother. It’s just not right. I've had many friends and family members comment on how wonderful the chicken tastes. It's hard to eat store bought chicken after raising your own. I thinks it's time to raise another 50. Sally

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