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Heritage and Heirloom Foods - Do The Words Now Mean Nothing?


weinoo
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The other day a second venture into our local Trader Joe's happened. Taking my time, enjoying the uncrowded, heavily air-conditioned store, I stumbled upon these (which evidently have been available for quite some time)...

 

image.thumb.png.c3329f17bffbb04fcf313a7a7b1786e2.png

 

Somewhat intrigued, and at $2.99/lb. a relative bargain compared to some other "heirloom" birds, I took one home and gave it the Cook's Illustrated from a long time ago poule au pot treatment...

 

IMG_4446.thumb.jpeg.2d5161823c1e41430b21871bd8082928.jpeg

 

It's quite simply not much better (if better at all) than most battery birds. I find the best chickens to be the Sasso, freshly slaughtered ones purchased at a place in Brooklyn, D'artagnan's free-range poussins, and when they appear, a true favorite, Joyce Farms Poulet Rouge.

 

Others tried include D'artagnan's Green Circle, Cooks Venture's heirloom chickens, Snowdance Farm's heritage, and others surely forgotten.

 

Heritage and heirloom sure seem to be words thrown around willy-nilly, from chickens, to turkeys, to apples and pears, and on and on.

 

What's your experience, if any, with these words and how they relate to what we put in our mouths?

 

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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I don't know if heritage or heirloom are terms defined by the USDA.  If not defined, anyone is free to use them on anything so they're practically worthless.  Lots of official sounding terms are used in food marketing but actually are unregulated and mean nothing, i.e. "all natural" etc...

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5 minutes ago, btbyrd said:

If it says “heritage” or “heirloom” but doesn’t specify the variety, I walk on by.

 

Agreed - except when taking one for a test.

 

4 minutes ago, KennethT said:

I don't know if heritage or heirloom are terms defined by the USDA.  If not defined, anyone is free to use them on anything so they're practically worthless.  Lots of official sounding terms are used in food marketing but actually are unregulated and mean nothing, i.e. "all natural" etc...

 

Agreed.  This is a bit interesting...

 

Quote

 

Food and animal welfare advocacy group Farm Forward, for example, has been combing through hundreds of pages of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) documents to determine how the agency is currently policing the term on food labels. It will also roll out an independent verification and “Certified Heritage Poultry” seal within the next few weeks in an attempt to address confusion in the marketplace.

The group and its allies say that protecting the true meaning of heritage chicken is essential to preventing the loopholes that have been created in relation to similar labels such as cage-free and grass-fed. The advocates point to a USDA petition already filed by one producer looking to define “heritage chicken”—which they deem to be incorrect—as evidence that the co-opting of the term has already begun.

 

 

https://civileats.com/2018/06/06/who-gets-to-define-heritage-chickens/

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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This has nothing to do with chickens, but I bought a "heritage" tomato once.  It tasted just like any other out-of-season tomato, but it was 3 times the price.  

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14 minutes ago, ElsieD said:

This has nothing to do with chickens, but I bought a "heritage" tomato once.  It tasted just like any other out-of-season tomato, but it was 3 times the price.  

This is a slightly different thing - no fruit, heritage or not, will taste good if not picked ripe.  Plus, among the thousands of "heritage" strains of tomatoes, lots of them are just plain blah - even when picked perfectly ripe.  I think most people buy the heritage or heirloom tomatoes in the grocery store because of how they look, and just imagine that they taste better.

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Aren't Heritage and Heirloom (aside from marketing tools) just a breed reference. Nothing to so with how raised/ I don't buy unless from a Farmers Market and I can ask questions. 

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@KennethT 

 

no fruit, heritage or not, will taste good if not picked ripe. "

 

usually true.

 

Pears ripen off the tree , esp Bartlett

 

Avocados do the same.

 

however , I can't remember what a perfectly ripe bartlett

 

just off the tree , tastes like, as having pear trees is a distant memory

 

we had avocado trees , but cant remember the last of a fully ripe one

 

off the tree , vs  a ripened at home avocado.

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42 minutes ago, rotuts said:

@KennethT 

 

no fruit, heritage or not, will taste good if not picked ripe. "

 

usually true.

 

Pears ripen off the tree , esp Bartlett

 

Avocados do the same.

 

however , I can't remember what a perfectly ripe bartlett

 

just off the tree , tastes like, as having pear trees is a distant memory

 

we had avocado trees , but cant remember the last of a fully ripe one

 

off the tree , vs  a ripened at home avocado.

I recently saw a Rick Bayless video on guacamole - he confirmed what I already thought - avocados don't ripen off the tree, they soften.  They take a year on the tree to ripen, which means, they accumulate fat.  They get to full size within 3 months, but need the extra 9 months to accumulate the fat which will never happen off tree.  However, they won't soften on the the tree - they need to be removed for that.

 

I have very little pear knowledge, so I can't comment on whether they are truly ripening off tree or something else...

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5 minutes ago, KennethT said:

I recently saw a Rick Bayless video on guacamole - he confirmed what I already thought - avocados don't ripen off the tree, they soften.  They take a year on the tree to ripen, which means, they accumulate fat.  They get to full size within 3 months, but need the extra 9 months to accumulate the fat which will never happen off tree.  However, they won't soften on the the tree - they need to be removed for that.

 

I have very little pear knowledge, so I can't comment on whether they are truly ripening off tree or something else...

Avocado - yes hard as a rock on tree but there is a definite change when they are ready to pick. Skin and stem look "different". Apparently the freakin squirrels have not figured this out - biting into rocks; ruining before ready. 

Pears -  similar with Bosc type on my two trees.   https://usapears.org/bosc/

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That's funny I really, really like those Trader Joes Heirloom birds and suspect they are the Cooks Venture brand. Simply roasted they are nice and are lightly gamey -maybe they aren't the best ever but a tremendous value and better than the Mary's Chicken & Jidori IMO but sure maybe not better than what you get locally in NYC

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26 minutes ago, AAQuesada said:

That's funny I really, really like those Trader Joes Heirloom birds and suspect they are the Cooks Venture brand. Simply roasted they are nice and are lightly gamey -maybe they aren't the best ever but a tremendous value and better than the Mary's Chicken & Jidori IMO but sure maybe not better than what you get locally in NYC

 

I have no expectations based on the "Heirloom" label but I've also had positive experience with these birds. I don't have access to the fancy breeds mentioned above but always look for air-cooled birds over the water-cooled supermarket standard stuff that's often waterlogged and tasteless.  I also have better luck finding these birds in the 2.5 - 3.5 range rather than pushing 5 lbs like most of Mary's birds at Whole Foods. 

 

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14 minutes ago, rotuts said:

@AAQuesada  

 

@blue_dolphin 

 

"" Mary's Birds ""   these ? :

 

https://www.maryschickens.com

 

turkeys:

 

http://www.marysturkeys.com

 

has anyone had the ( a ) Turkey ?

 

Yes, that brand of chicken is sold at my Whole Foods.  They have the turkeys at Thanksgiving, maybe other times, too.  I have had the turkey.  It was fine.  I don't remember it being anything remarkable but I'm usually more interested in the side dishes at that meal!

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When I first tried the Cooks Venture bird, I was somewhat impressed. I'd been less so with the last one I bought, and here they are not cheap. If the Trader Joe's is really that bird (which I'm sure can come from any number of farms), at $2.99 it's a veritable bargain, if still not that great.
 

Maybe the first time I roasted it and then did other preps with subsequent purchases?

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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I  personally think the bigger birds are more flavorful but all I've seen recently are the smaller ones at TJ's at first I  could easily get 3.5 -4lb birds but now all I  see are under 3lbs. My suspicion is the TJ's account has forced them grow pretty fast and they are keeping the older / larger birds for the main brand. 

 

Like @blue_dolphin mentioned When in doublt I  get an air chilled bird for me it's the best chicken i can get in a supermarket. I.e. With out going to Chinatown and getting one freshly dispatched. Sounds like you have some great options out there though! I'm jealous.

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Fresh Direct now offer this...

 

IMG_4486.thumb.jpeg.91a4eed0b605eab92af199f1d8b6a46c.jpeg

 

I think I also saw Cooks Venture in my local, used-to-be-gross supermarket, now just not as bad.

 

They must grow a lot of chickens on their 800-acre farm. Not that that is a bad thing.

 

I have a half in the CSO as I write this. Simply oiled and seasoned roasting at 425.  Oh - it weighed 1.6 lbs, so from like a 3.5 lb. bird.

 

Quote

 

This is the best chicken on the market because, at Cooks Venture, health and flavor come first for our pasture-raised birds. 


Our livestock develops juicier meat that is deeply flavored and more tender than that of conventional chicken. We air-chill our birds, so the skin is crispier when cooked and the meat has a noticeably better texture. In 10 out of 10 blind taste tests, our chicken is preferred over the competition!

Decades of breeding & husbandry to develop our special heirloom breed

Unlimited outdoor access on our 800-acre farm in Northwest Arkansas

Non-GMO Project Verified feed

Air-chilled

No antibiotics ever

 

 

You'll note on the label it states: "We are a group of farmers..."

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

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Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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The heritage  heirloom half chicken, post roast...

 

 IMG_4487.thumb.JPG.807115b937b035d4405654e130aa4541.JPG

 

Simply brushed with olive oil, salt and pepper.  I couldn't resist, and burned fingers and tongue with this...

 

IMG_4490.thumb.JPG.9c8ea23f7910d2b333e8ce0b902f7609.JPG

 

This (half) bird, at least the bits and pieces I've tasted, is very good. Much better, imo, than the Trader Joe's bird I cooked last week. 

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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