Sourcing pasture-raised chickens is tough. We’ve learned over the last four years how difficult it is for farmers to raise chickens on a small scale and still be financially viable. Since opening our doors, several of our chicken farmers have simply stopped raising chicken. It’s alway our intention to offer fair prices to both the farmers we’re sourcing from and to our customers. We thought we’d share some of the challenges our poultry farmers face to give you some insight into why the price of chicken at The Local Butcher Shop is what it is. We also want to share some information about the actual chickens and other birds we source.
The term ‘pastured’ means that the chickens are out on grass digging for bugs and grubs. (Chickens are omnivores!) Pastured chicken typically get supplemental feed—usually a mix of grains and soy—so they grow to market weight in a reasonable time for the farmer to make a living. Raising chickens on pasture is more expensive than conventional caged birds (who may never set foot grass, are fattened quickly with feed and, in many cases, are given growth-enhancing additives) because supplemental feed is expensive, especially when it’s certified non-GMO organic. It is difficult and expensive to find domestically grown organic feed; most of it comes from China. Depending on the breed, pastured chickens can take up to twice as long to grow as conventional birds, which means they eat twice as much feed over the course of their life.
We have two sources for chicken here at The Local Butcher Shop.
We get Freedom Rangers from Riverdog Farm, located in Capay Valley in Yolo County. This heritage breed is an athletic bird, meant to be outside running around. Riverdog’s supplemental feed is certified organic. The birds take 12 to 13 weeks to get to market weight, compared to about 6 weeks for conventional birds not raised on pasture. The meat is dark, flavorful and textured. It is also leaner and tends to be less forgiving if overcooked.
We also get chickens from Hoffman, a farm in Manteca that specializes in raising meat birds. These chickens are Cornish Cross birds. Although these birds are a common commercial breed, Hoffman gives them more time to grow and develop. The birds are housed in flight pens where they can forage, and their locally grown and milled supplemental feed is GMO-free.
All these variables—the breed, the feed, location, living conditions, the farm’s size and scale, processing costs, etc— impact the cost of the birds. This is reflected in the price of our chicken at the shop: our Riverdog chickens sell for $7.50 per pound and Hoffman birds sell for $4.75.
In addition to our chickens, we bring in specialty poultry including guinea hens, squab, quail, duck, turkey, rabbit, roosters and stewing hens. These always come to us fresh and never frozen, and the variety in the case varies each week. If you’ve never cooked some of the smaller birds, like guinea hens and squab at home, we highly recommend you give it try! You might find a new favorite.
Let’s talk turkey
With Thanksgiving just six weeks away, you may be thinking about turkey. Here at the shop, we were thinking about Thanksgiving back in April when we placed our order with BN Ranch. This year, we are pleased to offer BN Ranch’s heritage birds, available whole or custom cut for you at $10.25 per pound.
After much thoughtful consideration, we will be selling only heritage turkeys this year.We are dedicated to providing the most flavorful, healthiest meats free from antibiotics and hormones. The heritage birds are much heartier than the broad breasted birds and thus, there is a much smaller risk of the heritage birds getting sick and needing antibiotics. This year we opted to mitigate our risk by offering only heritage birds.
It’s worth mentioning that meat from a heritage turkey is incredibly rich and flavorful. BN Ranch’s turkeys are beautiful, old breeds including Standard Bronze, Narragansett and Spanish Black. Ten years ago, heritage breed turkeys were lean and dry. BN Ranch has perfected raising their heritage turkeys to be plump, moist, flavorful birds. Their humane and environmentally responsible farming practices—including unrestricted outdoor access—produce the highest quality meat with a depth of flavor that can only come from happy, athletic, healthy birds. Aaron and Monica went to visit the birds last year and were very impressed with their living conditions and the entire operation that BN Ranch has set up for these birds!
Thanksgiving Orders Online
This year we are taking Thanksgiving order online! Turkey, ham, gravy, sausage stuffing, stock, bacon, eggs, leaf lard for pies—order it all from us online and mark it off your list. You are also welcome to call us to place an order at 510.845.6328.