A Conversation With an Organic Chicken Producer
We often get asked about our chicken...the who, what, when, and how (we all already know why - a lean, healthy, versatile, affordable protein).
We also often get asked if we have organic chicken. The short answer is, "yes."
The long answer is, well we SOMETIMES do but not often. When we get enough requests we will go commit to a certain amount of chicken and offer it with our other line of meats.
But what has happened time and time again is that when presented with the organic option, even if $2-$3 LESS per lb than the grocery store, we hardly sell it because it's still expensive when compared to conventional chicken across the board.
We have dealt with chicken producers of all kinds. I personally would love an exclusivity to organic chicken for my family. But I am on a budget, I have 6 kids, 4 of which are teens and 3 of them boys. They would eat us out of house and home with organic chicken, even at wholesale prices.
So I get it. I get the desire, but not the practicality of it.
So that makes the next best thing to do is to find the "second best" option or the option that can still be affordable, but perhaps one-level under organic.
I had a conversation with an organic chicken producer ....I said, "We want to have your products and we will grow and hopefully be able to have enough willing to pay for the organic label. BUT....since we can't let's chat about our options that would be 'second best'."
So that leads us to the chicken option we have today! We choose to work with and provide chicken from what we consider to be one of the best sources for chicken.
We had personally already done our homework and chosen a brand to work with and then the conversation with the organic chicken producer confirmed that that would be his choice as well for many reasons!
First, let me tell you who we source from.
We source from Koch Foods (pronounced Cook) that does all of the processing of the chicken that comes from the midwest. Koch processes the chicken from 350 small poultry farms in the midwest. Each of these farms have a list of requirements for farming and raising practices including no steroids, no added hormones, antibiotic free, free-range and humane practices.
From there, Koch Foods has a USDA certified processing facility to kill, clean and handcut each chicken. These are minimally processed and hand cut by a human.
We already knew these things and already knew that these things elevated the chicken quality to a much higher level (like Simple Truth Naturals chicken), but this next part was the piece we gleaned from our chat with the organic chicken producer.
What's even more important about this process is this specific information the organic chicken producer shared with us.
First, for them, they grow chicken over about 10 weeks to 4-5 lbs each bird. So they are growing slowly and naturally.
Nearly every chicken brand out there will grow their chickens in 4-5 weeks and to 9-10 lbs. This is a very hard process on the chicken because they get to the point that they can't move around and thus create an issue called "woody breast" because of the lack of moving from growing too fat too fast. They wanted to master making more $$ per lb with this process. And the big names in chicken do have really cheap chicken!
The brand Koch that we use, they grow the chicken in 7-8 weeks and to about 5-6 lbs. Is as long or lean as the organic chicken, no. But they are one of the only ones outside of organic that has these practices.
The organic producer we spoke with has been in the chicken industry for a long time and knows the good, the bad and the ugly. He point blank said, if my choices were out of these brands, I would pick Koch hand's down.
Of course, he would be organic all of the time...but if he couldn't....;)
About that woody breast....
Does that mean that organic chicken and the Koch Foods chicken we bring in is void of all woody breast.
However, the amount of occurrences is greatly minimized.
I specifically asked this organic chicken producer to share his knowledge with me on the issue of woody breast.
I will write a more detailed article about what it is and why it happens, but he said it is never 100% avoidable. Even in organic chicken, woody breast can occur.
Here's why it occurs:
It occurs when the chicken was not active enough. If you have a lazy chicken (or a too fat and big to move chicken like some big producers) the chicken will develop a woodiness in the breast (those white lines) that makes the chicken more chewy and less appetizing.
Even in the best of circumstances, you can and will have chickens, even in a free roaming environment that will simply be a lazy bird turd and choose not to move much. That chicken will probably have more woody breast.
At the end of the day, the point is that woody breast can and will occur in all chicken raising situations, but it is less frequent in some situations.
With all of that being said, I am glad we did our homework at the beginning when choosing to align with a chicken processing plant for our needs and then to have it confirmed by an organic chicken producer that this would be his personal choice outside of organic as well.
We are picky about the foods and meats we procure. We work hard to secure the best that we can for the best prices.
Of course, if you are buying a clearance and overstock, this is the one area where we let all kinds of food come in to be rescued because access to any food is better than none. But every other food category is well thought out, researched and taste tested for top quality!