Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How's the Chicken?

Last Saturday was our first CSA Share delivery where we delivered to all of our customers. Preparing each 10lb share turned out to be a little more work than we had calculated. We tried to make sure that every share included both beef and pork as well as a variety of cuts. At first we second guessed our decision to limit CSA Shares. However, now we are glad that we did. Like everything else we have experienced, the first few tries require us to overcome a learning curve. Once we get into a good groove with our CSA Shares, we will reevaluate our ability to handle more CSA Shares.

Last Saturday was also our first chicken delivery. Aside from the chickens being a little smaller than we expected, we are very happy with the quality and flavor that our chicken offers. We have already had several emails from our customers who are thrilled with the superior meat quality and flavor. The chickens we delivered on Saturday were the New Hampshire Reds (Red Ranger). We found that the chickens that reached a 4lb dressed weight had considerably more breast meat than the 3-3.5lb chickens. Our next batch of New Hampshire Reds will be raised two weeks longer in order to get all of them into this 4 lb. range. We plan to have these ready the first weekend of August. In the meantime, our next group of chickens will be the Delaware and Plymouth Rock chickens. We expect that these chickens will be true to the heritage breeds with more slender dispositions and an abundance of flavor. We will harvest these chickens in June. For July we plan to harvest another type of chicken. This chicken will be the Slow Cornish Cross. These chickens have the heavy muscling and large breasts that many are used to. The difference is that they grow much slower allowing their skeletal system and organs to keep up with their growth rate. As a precaution, we are also feeding them a lower protein feed to ensure that they stay healthy and happy. This is simply an experiment, but so far we haven’t lost a single Slow Cornish Cross chicken which leaves us very optimistic.

Turkeys have been a bit more challenging than the chickens. Again, we blame ourselves for simply lacking the experience required to raise poultry on pasture on this level of production. However, how else can we learn unless we try? This past Friday we moved our 80 young turkeys from the brooder to the pasture. The forecast called for a little rain but in Vernon it decided to snow. Sadly, we found 17 turkeys that didn’t make it through the night. Had we known it would get cold enough to snow, we never would have moved them from the brooder. Interestingly, all but two of the 17 were Bourbon Reds. The Royal Palms seem to be much more hardy and cold tolerant. This is good for us to know as Vernon is rather cold. In fact, we run the furnace in our home from September to the first of June. This only leaves about three months of warm weather. Even during these three months, we have day/night temperature differences of 40-50 degrees. This kind of weather can be hard on certain breeds of animals which is partly why this year has been so challenging. Since, nobody in Vernon or Utah for that matter, has raised large numbers of heritage poultry, we really have no record to reference. We are learning as we go. We have helped several other small farms who are getting started in Utah by sharing our experiences so that they might avoid some of the problems we have incurred. We are learning (the hard way) which breeds are better suited for our climate. We are confident that by next year we will have a much better success rate.

As mentioned above, we have already heard back from several customers that the chicken is fantastic.  However, if anybody else has had a chance to try the chicken, we would love to hear your feedback.  What do you think of our idea to raise Slow Cornish Cross?  Do you like the idea of more breast meat or oppose the use of non heritage breeds?  Remember we we want to be your farmer.  This means we need to know what kind of food you want.  We look forward to hearing your ideas!


Jennie said...

For me personally, I'd rather go for the heritage breeds.

Anonymous said...

We are so excited and can't wait until it is our time to pick up our order!!! Can't wait to taste real chicken!!!

Alice said...

I'm not sure what kind of chicken we got (we picked it up on the 26th of June), but we ate the first one (we cut it in half and put it on the bbq). Then we boiled the bones and leftovers to make chicken noodle soup.

The flavor is great, and the meat is moist. We're very happy. Now we just have to clear out enough freezer space before our next pickup. :)