On April 17, 2009, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) and Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch hosted an event in Lindsborg, Kans., announcing the definition of heritage chicken. The event included tasting meat of four breeds of heritage chickens. The tasting was divided into a meal (including side dishes) for each season, because different breeds of chickens mature at different rates and the meat is better suited to different uses depending on the maturity of the bird at slaughter.
Here’s an overview of the menu. Some of the recipes are available on the recipe page of the Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch website.
Fall — New Hampshire Red
Chicken Osso Buco
Winter — Jersey Giant
Tropical Mole’ Chicken
Spring — Cornish (Indian Game)
Chicken Soup with Knaidlach
Summer — Plymouth Rock
So what’s different about heritage chicken? Everything! The size and shape of the pieces of meat is remarkable; the drumsticks are nearly as long as that of a small turkey. The texture is firmer. It’s similar to tender beef — you can cut it with a fork, but you can’t mash it like industrially raised chicken.
By the way, cooking heritage chicken requires different methods to make it turn out right. In brief, you have to cook it more slowly, at lower temperatures and with more moisture.
It’s more flavorful, even to an untrained, dull palate (such as mine). The meat, regardless of which dish it was used in, tasted great. But the flavor of the broth was dramatic. I’ve tried to make chicken broth from industrial chicken without adding commercial bouillon, but it always ends up flat. The broth from the heritage chicken was wonderful, and I confirmed it was not “fixed up” with bouillon.