It seems ironic that someone with so little patience (me) would love so many things that take such a great amount of time to produce (a large percentage of things I love to eat)—cassoulet, tomato sauce, paella, trippa alla Fiorentina, and even specific meats. Slow growing breeds of meat are often more flavorful than their rapid-growing conventional counterparts. This is true of the rabbits at Devil’s Gulch Ranch where they crossbreed traditional meat rabbits—Californians and New Zealands—with more non-traditional rabbits—Rex—which produce a slower developing, more flavorful meat. It is true of the wooly Hungarian Mangalitsa pig, usually slaughtered at more than twelve months where typical pigs are slaughtered between eight and ten months of age, which makes some of the most spectacular pork I have ever tasted. And it is even true of the chicken.
There are several special breeds of chicken that fall into this category, many of them heritage breeds. Only the most superior tasting breeds of chicken are selected for production in France’s, Label Rouge, considered by many to be the international standard for quality meats. The flagship product of Label Rouge is poultry, or Poulet Rouge. These breeds take longer to reach fryer size. A Cornish cross, a typical commercial chicken, achieves five pounds at approximately six to seven weeks whereas Poulet Rouge birds never reach this size until they are about twelve weeks of age. Their bodies are generally more elongated with smaller breasts and longer legs, qualities that better suit chickens in free-range pasturing environments, which is a lifestyle strictly required by the Label Rouge.
In order to be considered Label Rouge in France, farms must follow rigorous guidelines. They dictate a wide range of specifications that insure the highest quality of meat which include genetics, buildings, density of livestock, access and range, feed, medication of sick animals, minimum slaughter age, minimum weight of the carcass without giblets, time period permitted between raising flocks, travel time and distance to processing plant, the method of cooling the carcasses, and shelf life. Only certain breeds of broilers are permitted, all of which are slow-growing, ideal for pasturing.
One such breed is the Red Ranger, available from local Riverdog Farm. This Guinda farm is best known for their bounty of certified organic produce—fruits, vegetables, and nuts, but they also raise some of the most delicious chicken, eggs, and pork produced in this area. Riverdog uses mobile coops which they rotate through their 300 acre property where their laying hens and meat birds eat alfalfa, insects, and even a share of the farm’s gorgeous produce. The adage “you are what you eat” has never been truer. These chickens are exceptionally rich in flavor and also have a higher percentage of dark meat than conventional broilers. Braise the legs in some nice rosé and stock with shallots, garlic, thyme, and butter, and you will taste heaven.
You can also find their produce at the Davis Food Co-op.
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