The chickens in a barn on the Delmarva Peninsula in the USA are part of an experiment that could help change the way Americans eat, and think about, poultry.
Perdue Farms, one of the USA’s largest chicken producers, has been raising what are known as slow-growth chickens side by side with the breeds that have made the company successful.
The New York Times (HERE) says the new birds, a variety known as Redbro, take 25 per cent longer, on average, to mature than their conventional cousins. Hence they are more expensive to raise.
A strong incentive as Perdue tries to find the right slow-growth breed is that a fast-growing cohort of companies that buy vast quantities of poultry are demanding meat from slow-growth chickens. They say giving birds more time to grow before slaughter will give them a healthier, happier life — and produce better-tasting meat.
“We want to get back to a place where people don’t have to put a marinade on their chicken to make it taste like something,” said Theo Weening, who oversees meat purchasing for Whole Foods and recalls how his mother bought chicken by breed in the Netherlands, where he grew up.
Producing a chicken that consumers can afford is the big challenge for chicken producers. Dr. Stewart-Brown, of Perdue, said it cost about 30 per cent more to feed the Redbro birds; the expense can run even higher for other slow-growth breeds, some of which can take as much as twice as long to reach full weight as conventional birds.
The new chickens have a fuller flavor but their meat tends to be distributed differently over the body, with more generous thighs and smaller breasts than the chicken with which most Americans are familiar.