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The Blissful Glutton

Best chicken?

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I have been searching for the best tasting chicken for quite some time. My personal favorite is still Bell and Evans, but am open to suggestions. I used to like the Smart chickens, but my local store stopped carrying it.

What are your favorites?


Edited by The Blissful Glutton (log)

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A few weeks ago I would have said any locally grown bird but today it's one fed on US grain and not melamine laced feed from China.-Dick

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eberly birds are my favorite. i like bell and evans too, but have a preference for eberly.

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It has to be "poulet de Bresse" but you'll pay a fortune for it.

Otherwise any chicken raised in the open, with room to run around and fed natural food.


Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

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Kosher chickens are also very good. They come pre-salted, so brining isn't necessary.

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I didn't know that poulets de Bresse were available in the US. Where? But we should be aware that these vary quite a lot from producer to producer - and that it is unlikely that if they were available here they'd be particularly fresh.

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We like Bell and Evans. Of course, it helps that their processing plant is relatively close to us :) From their web site:

All-Natural Diet

Our chickens thrive on an all-natural diet. At Bell & Evans, our chickens are raised without antibiotics on a proper, 100% natural, all-vegetable diet fortified with vitamins and minerals. Unlike many other chicken growers, we never feed our chicken junk food like rendered meat scraps; bone, feather or fish meal; or animal fats, oils, and grease. You wouldn't eat that stuff and we don't think the chickens should either. What's more, Bell & Evans chickens are never fed growth hormones, (Federal law prohibits the use of artificial growth hormones in poultry), artificial preservatives or unnecessary and non-nutritive coloring agents.

Locally-Grown Soy Beans

The unique, all-natural vegetable diet that Bell & Evans chickens thrive on is key to the award-winning taste of The Excellent Chicken. Our chickens get their energy from locally-grown Extruded Soybeans and Expeller Pressed Soybeans only, enhanced with corn and amino acids for better protein balance.

Why are Extruded Soybeans and Expeller Pressed Soybeans so important?

Our special processing method produces soy that is richer in healthy nutrients such as lecithin, linoleic acid and Vitamin Ethan solvent-extracted meal - without releasing toxic Hexane gas into our environment. Nearly all soybean processed in the United States are processed using the Solvent Extraction process. As part of the process, these solvent extraction processing plants create and release hexane gas into the air. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) categorizes hexane as a HAP (hazardous air pollutant). Another concern is residuals from the hexane will remain in the final meal. Though solvent extraction is more economical, we believe that raising a healthier chicken and protecting our environment are more important.

Vitamin Supplements

We give our chickens a vitamin diet supplement that provides additional protein and fiber essential for The Excellent Chicken. In our starter feed, we add 15 times the recommended amount of Vitamin E, an antioxidant that bolsters the young chick's immune system and improves chicken quality. Throughout our chickens' lives, we give them three times the recommended vitamins, including A, D, E, and K, plus B-12, biotin, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin and more. Our feed is constantly tested to make certain of its high nutritional value.

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Giannone chickens from Canada, sold at a few places in NYC (like Jefferson Market). They are wonderufl!

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I read on a separate post that the best chicken in NYC is a Bobo chicken. 

 

I got mine at a store on Chinatown. The chicken tasted ok and it wasn't super good etc. 

 

The Bobo was something like $3 a lb and a Bell & Evans at Whole Foods Organic Air Chilled chicken was $3.99 

 

I think I'm sticking to the organic, air-chilled B&E one just bc the store in Chinatown wouldn't upgrade their facilities so the seller's kit is dirty looking etc. and the chicken doesn't have a package date and water accumulated in some (showing signs of age) 


"Hmmm....what would Don Quixote do?" 

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37 minutes ago, eugenep said:

I read on a separate post that the best chicken in NYC is a Bobo chicken. 

 

I got mine at a store on Chinatown. The chicken tasted ok and it wasn't super good etc. 

 

The Bobo was something like $3 a lb and a Bell & Evans at Whole Foods Organic Air Chilled chicken was $3.99 

 

I think I'm sticking to the organic, air-chilled B&E one just bc the store in Chinatown wouldn't upgrade their facilities so the seller's kit is dirty looking etc. and the chicken doesn't have a package date and water accumulated in some (showing signs of age) 

Which store in Chinatown did you go to?  the last time I checked, Bobo had several different breeds on offer - there's the white plume, which is sort of like the normal supermarket chicken, and the black plume which is gamier, and more like the chicken you'd find in Asia - what some might call scrawny breasts and tough dark meat.  I like it - I find it much more "chicken-y" than standard supermarket chickens like B&E.

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The best I've had is Bo Bo. Specifically their black plume chickens. I don't imagine these are the best you can find at all costs (who knows what that would be ...) but I find they strike a great balance between quality and affordability. The black plumes are a hybrid between heritage breeds and modern chickens. They mature slowly enough to develop real flavor, but no so slowly as to be priced like a delicacy. They're also humanely raised and very well fed, and always sold with the head on (so you examine the eyes for freshness). Last I checked they were below $5/lb, but this was a while back. They have scrawny breasts (but ones that actually taste good) and burly legs. 

 

Mostly I buy Murrays or Bell & Evans, since they're at my local store. I consider these the entry level of chicken that actually tastes like chicken. But they're not remarkable in any way. These brands are well-raised, but actually use the same breed that's raised by Purdue and every other supermarket brand ... ones bred to grow to 4lbs in 6 weeks on 8lbs of feed ... or something close to that. Flavor isn't a real priority. At least the good brands don't actually taste bad. Even the very expensive all-organic, fully buzzword-compliant birds at places like Whole Foods tend to be this same breed (cornishX hybrids). At specialty markets and farmers' markets I often see the pure heritage breeds. I'm sure they're amazing, but I have yet to indulge (not counting the gobsmackingly pricey Amish farm heritage turkeys I've splurged on for thksgiving.

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Notes from the underbelly

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2 hours ago, KennethT said:

Which store in Chinatown did you go to?  the last time I checked, Bobo had several different breeds on offer - there's the white plume, which is sort of like the normal supermarket chicken, and the black plume which is gamier, and more like the chicken you'd find in Asia - what some might call scrawny breasts and tough dark meat.  I like it - I find it much more "chicken-y" than standard supermarket chickens like B&E.

I read about the Bobo online and cross checked it here on Egullet and I think I read your post so I wanted to try the Bobo. 

 

I got mine at Chung Shing Meats, 19 Catherine St, in Chi-town. 

 

I didn't see any label to identify it as White or Black plume. The birds were 3.80 lb to over 4lbs in size. 

 

You think a seller of the Black plume would make a difference and where should I buy that? 

 

The owners of Chung Shing Meats should upgrade their facilities. The chicken might be alright but the place didn't have a clean look to it so I think that's the biggest reason for not going for another one unless there's a Black plume seller nearby? 


"Hmmm....what would Don Quixote do?" 

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Chicken flavor is down to genetics, feed, and lifestyle. Most chicken at the grocery store fails in one or more of these categories. Bell and Evans make a quality air-chilled product, but achieving excellent flavor is not their goal. They still use fast-growing birds slaughtered early before they could live a bird-life, walking around and foraging on land. Living a bird life that's longer than 6 weeks or so is crucial to developing good chicken flavor. In America, we grow breeds that were selected to pack on white meat as fast as possible so the birds can be killed as early as possible. These are the "chickens of tomorrow," and they're why Americans think chicken doesn't taste like anything.

 

The best chicken I can find in my local grocery are the poulet rouge birds on offer from Joyce Farms. To get anything "better," I have to go to the farmer's market. Which I do, sometimes.  It isn't often that I get to crow about industrialized animal agriculture, but I am happy to have Joyce Farms in my community bringing quality product to demanding consumers and chefs at a scale most small farmers cannot hope to deliver. They're a North Carolina brand I am proud to represent in my kitchen, and I know many local chefs who are just as proud to represent them on their menus. And apparently their product is in demand in New York City, which pleases me greatly. Here's an overview of their program:

 

 

 

And here's a closer look at a particular farm who is producing in the Joyce Farms program. This farm is just under an hour drive from my house, not that I've been there myself. 

 

 

I don't know if this chicken is the best, but it's certainly the best thing I've ever been fortunate enough to find in a grocery store. Bell and Evans and Smart Chicken (or anything else air-chilled, frankly) are a step down, but an acceptable substitute. And sometimes, I admit, I buy the freakshow modern chicken because I am weak willed and/or weak budgeted. It's hard to feed a huge crowd on heritage birds, but maybe that's how it should be.

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2 hours ago, eugenep said:

I read about the Bobo online and cross checked it here on Egullet and I think I read your post so I wanted to try the Bobo. 

 

I got mine at Chung Shing Meats, 19 Catherine St, in Chi-town. 

 

I didn't see any label to identify it as White or Black plume. The birds were 3.80 lb to over 4lbs in size. 

 

You think a seller of the Black plume would make a difference and where should I buy that? 

 

The owners of Chung Shing Meats should upgrade their facilities. The chicken might be alright but the place didn't have a clean look to it so I think that's the biggest reason for not going for another one unless there's a Black plume seller nearby? 

The last time I bought chicken in Chinatown (quite a while ago) I think it was at Hong Li Meat Market on Mott St. north of Canal.  Back then, Bo Bo listed the stores that sold their products on their website.  The store was clean and well kept - they do cooked food in the front, and there's a meat market further back.  They had silkies, old stewing chickens, black plume and white plume, plus quail, squab, etc... They weren't well labeled, but the bobo stuff has the yellow wing tag and the black plume look like they're a little scrawnier in the breast area...  I had tried to ask questions, but I gave up since my Cantonese is a little rusty.... but they tried to be helpful...  But it's been a while, so things may have changed...

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8 hours ago, eugenep said:

I read about the Bobo online and cross checked it here on Egullet and I think I read your post so I wanted to try the Bobo. 

 

I got mine at Chung Shing Meats, 19 Catherine St, in Chi-town. 

 

I didn't see any label to identify it as White or Black plume. The birds were 3.80 lb to over 4lbs in size. 

 

You think a seller of the Black plume would make a difference and where should I buy that? 

 

The owners of Chung Shing Meats should upgrade their facilities. The chicken might be alright but the place didn't have a clean look to it so I think that's the biggest reason for not going for another one unless there's a Black plume seller nearby? 

 

I just wrote to Bo Bo to ask for a list of retailers. I used to get them from my old butcher on the lower east side but he's long gone. 

 

My understanding is that the birds they call "white plume" are conventional chickens that are just raised well. The black plume ones are the heritage hybrids and are completely different. They call the breed "barred-silver cross," if I remember correctly. No idea what that means.

 

I'd love to try a poulet rouge birds. Does anyone have a source in NYC? And a price?

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Notes from the underbelly

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@btbyrd - is there a store in NYC or across the river in the New Jersey area that sells Joyce birds? They say Whole Foods but in South-Eastern area. I'll try to look for it - seems worth a try. But my default chicken is likely going to be Bell & Evans owing to price, (decent) quality, and availability. 


"Hmmm....what would Don Quixote do?" 

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7 hours ago, eugenep said:

@btbyrd - is there a store in NYC or across the river in the New Jersey area that sells Joyce birds? They say Whole Foods but in South-Eastern area. I'll try to look for it - seems worth a try. But my default chicken is likely going to be Bell & Evans owing to price, (decent) quality, and availability. 

 

Not that I know of, but if I was trying to track down heritage meats in NYC, I'd get in touch with Heritage Foods USA. They have a mail-order business, but a brick-and-mortar storefront in the city. The founder got his start selling heritage turkeys, and though chicken isn't their primary business I'm sure that if you called and expressed an interest in finding high quality, humanely raised heritage chickens they'd be able to help you out. Heritage Foods runs a non-profit radio network dedicated to food education, and they're an organization I like to support in whatever ways I can. If Heritage Meats is out of chicken, I bet they'd be able to direct you to a quality purveyor. It probably won't be poulet rouge, but you probably won't be disappointed. And you'll probably end up making me jealous of whatever you're able to source there in the city. 😊 Bell & Evans is my default chicken as well. But in the event that there's a special occasion....

 

 

 

 

 

Finding these birds offered regularly for sale at my local Whole Foods was about the only wonderful surprise I've had in my supermarket grocery-buying experience in North Carolina. Apologies if I'm crowing a bit too much about this product, but it's a good one. It's rare for us to eat chicken that's over a month old in this country, and that's a shame for everyone (including the chickens).

 

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