A free-range chicken in every pot

February 22, 2009 at 3:31 pm 4 comments

It’s true that sustainably grown local food usually costs more than the standard supermarket fare. But when you realize that it tastes ten times better, is much better for your health, the environment and the local economy, and will actually go further in your weekly diet, it’s a heckuva great deal.

The big test for me was meat. A whole free-range, au natural chicken (no hormones or antibiotics) cost me $2.99 a pound at Chatham Marketplace this week-end. While a whole fryer at Food Lion might cost considerably less, it’s not nearly as tasty, which is why I used to pass up the fryers for boneless breasts at the supermarket, which also cost about $2.99 a pound.  I used to be willing to pay $2.99 a pound or more for rubbery meat that doesn’t even taste like chicken, until I discovered I could get a whole bird at my natural food co-op that had more flavor in its little wings than those hormone-enhanced breasts, for the same price. No brainer.

The free-range bird has some other advantages over the rubber chicken breasts at the supermarket.  Because it was raised without any pesticides and herbicides, toxic metals in its feed, or artificial hormones to fatten it, the free-bird is better for my health. And because it didn’t require petrochemicals to raise it, or much petroleum to deliver it to the marketplace, it’s better for the environment (and I get to reduce my carbon footprint).  Best of all,  most of the money I paid for it goes directly to the farmer and the rest goes to my local food co-op, which I co-own. So it’s good for my local and personal economy. 

What really sold me on buying a $2.99/pound free-range bird over $2.99/pound rubber breasts, was how far I could make the free-range hen stretch to feed  my husband and me for a week. A four-pound bird would give us 3-4 meals including a roast, some risotto or pasta, some quesadillas or sandwiches, and the best home-made spoup I’ve ever made.

As part of my commitment to sustainable locavore cooking whenever possible, I discovered that there really are distinct flavor benefits to making your own soup stock, especially if you make it from the long-simmering bones of an all natural chicken. Now I’m using every part of that free-ranger to make stock and my chicken risotto never tasted so good.  This week-end I made White Bean Soup Provencale (see Locavore Cooking in The Indy) using my stock as a base. It’s the best soup I’ve ever made, I have enough for about three more meals for two people, and it cost me about $2.00 total to produce. I’ve also got a freezer full of chicken stock for more risotto and soup recipes. All from one bird at $2.99/pound.

I used to think making soup from scratch meant buying chicken stock, vegetables and meat at the supermarket and mixing it up in a pot. It never tasted better than the Progresso from a can, so I didn’t understand why I should go through all the trouble.

Making soup from home-made free-range stock and other local ingredients is just as easy and has made all the difference. So my “expensive” free-range chicken is turning out to be one of the best investments I could make for the environment, my health and my pocketbook. I guess that’s why they call it sustainable.

Entry filed under: Sustainable Food, Uncategorized.

Farmer Doug’s winter crop Somebody’s listening in the White House

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. edibleearthscape  |  March 31, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    Hi there, I really enjoy reading your entries, especially the ones of why you cook with local ingredients. I would love it if you could share your recipes with other CSA members on our blog site once we start going! …and we should have a ‘local’ potluck at the farm where we can directly share recipes!! -H

    • 2. sustainablegrub  |  April 1, 2009 at 8:21 am

      Sure. I’m looking forward to using your recipes, too! I like the potluck idea.

  • 3. My New Year’s Resolutions « sustainable grub  |  December 27, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    […] means I can afford the good local stuff raised without pesticides, herbicides and antibiotics. (See A Free-Range Chicken in Every Pot.)  I followed their directions and won the locavore trifecta: lost weight, lowered my carbon footprint […]

  • 4. Crystal  |  August 25, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    I would absolutely purchase local, free-range, natural chickens if they were $2.99 a pound. Here, in central NY with an abundance of local farm, farmer’s markets, and such, these whole chicken are $5.99 a pound. One bird costs anywhere from $25-$30. And while you can stretch that out to cover two or three meals, it’s still very pricy when you’re on a tight food budget.


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