Archive for the 'sustainable eating' Category


April 22, 2010

Recipe: Sustainable Eating #6: Good Shepherd Heritage Chicken

Author: Chris PerrinApril 22, 2010

2010 Continues!

A lot of exciting things are supposed to happen this year.  If Arthur C. Clarke is right, this is the year that Jupiter will turn into a sun thanks to Roy Schneider.  We’re 2 years away from the Mayan (Aztec?) apocalypse.  Yep, this is an exciting time to be alive!

In all seriousness, while 2010 is a year of great opportunity, it’s also one of great challenge with the glocal economy still on shaky footing, joblessness soaring acros the world, and some very credible evidence that the environment is getting more and more unstable.  Fixing the environment is a big job, but it’s not so big if we all pitch in.  That’s why Caitlin from Roaming Tales and I are doing this series on sustainable eating: so everyone can make informed decisions about food and the food supply. 


Happy Earth Day!  Ready to celebrate with

Good Shepherd Heritage Chicken

Last weekend I had the honor to judge a Good Shepherd heritage chicken cooking contest alongside Gardening expert (and generally one of the most gracious men I’ve ever met) P. Allen Smith, LA Times food critic Jonathon Gold, Cookbook Author M0lly O’Neill, and Kansas City culinary legend Jasper Mirable (who you might have noticed I talk about on the blog a bit.) 

During the contest, we tried four recipes.  All were delicious, but sadly only could win: Chicken a la Tucson.  I’ll post the link to the winning recipe as soon as I get it.

Still, as much as I enjoyed the contest, last Saturday was more than a taste experience for me.  It was an educational experience.  I thought I knew what went into making a good chicken.  I was wrong.

Heritage Chicken — Read If You Care About Your Food

I learned something this weekend that I found completely shocking.  Most commerical chickens that you buy at the store come from a single, genetically engineered species of chicken.  This chicken has been breed to be several hundred times larger than a wild chicken and to reach maturity far, far sooner (like months sooner.)  This is a poor breed.  These chickens cannot survive without human invention and cannot reproduce without being artificially inseminated.

These chickens are so huge they can barely move on their own power.  Their meat is flaccid because the chickens are immobile and their bones are limp and weak because the chickens are not allowed to mature before they are slaughtered.

They are creations from a lab and sadly, even some organic chicken, which is supposed to be better for you, comes from this breed because the term “organic” governs how they were raised, not what species they are.

So What’s a Heritage Chicken

A few chicken ranchers, including the people at Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch, have literally scoured the globe  to find original, natural breeds of poultry.  These ranchers are trusting nature, not technology to produce superior birds.  They then raised the poultry with a lot of care, but without antibotics or GMO food.  Basically, the same thing as your organic standards, but the chickens are real, natural breeds of bird.

These birds are hardy and healthy.  Even better, they can reproduce for years without needing to help from humans.

But Why Does Heritage Chicken Matter?

There are a couple of reasons why heritage chicken is important.  Take your pick.

  1. Protection of the food supply.  Biodiversity (many species)  is crucial to our survival as humans.  Why?  Well, let’s imagine a scenario where a flu for bids, a bird flu if you will, infects the chicken population.  The more species of chicken out there, the greater the likelihood that at least one of those species will prove resistant to flu.  Also, they are naturally hardy and can survive adverse conditions.
  2. Environmental Impact.  Heritage chicken is better for the environment because it requires less artifical help for living and reproduction.
  3. Taste.  They’re delicious.  Did you know that chicken does have to flat and flavorless?  It’s not when it’s heritage chicken.  Oh, heritage poultry has won a few awards, too.

I mean, they have to be on to something for me to write this post.  Their CEO, Frank Reese, is a K-State fan and I’m still giving him mad props.  You know how I feel about K-State fans!

Is Heritage Chicken Perfect?

No.  Let’s be honest.  Heritage chicken has two issues with it.

The first is cost.  Sadly, currently heritage chicken operations do not have the same economies of scale that more common chicken operations enjoy.  Still, if you want to fall in love with chicken again, it’s worth it.

The second is preparation.  I should have known something was up that the cooking instructions for every chicken, no matter if it was raised locally, 200 miles away or 2,000 miles away, uses the exact same cook times.  That shouldn’t be possible unless they are using the exact same chicken. 

Heritage chicken, on the other hand, varies by breed.  So when you buy your chicken, you have to know what breed it is because you cannot use certain birds for certain applications.  Then, you’re just going to have to cook it longer than you might otherwise because heritage poultry are real birds with real firm bones that actually benefit from cooking for far longer than you could ever hope to cook a lab bird.

Interested in Heritage Chicken?

I hope you’re interested in trying it.

I think you’ll be happy with it.

The best thing you can do is ask around.  I get my Good Shepherd heritage chicken at my local non-Whole Foods grocery store so ask around.  You can even buy your heritage poultry online.

So, give it a shot.   It’s sustainable.  It’s delicious.  It’s good for the future.

Enjoy.

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March 30, 2010

Recipe: Sustainable Eating #5: Fever for the Flava

Author: Chris PerrinMarch 30, 2010

2010 Continues!

A lot of exciting things are supposed to happen this year.  If Arthur C. Clarke is right, this is the year that Jupiter will turn into a sun thanks to Roy Schneider.  We’re 2 years away from the Mayan (Aztec?) apocalypse.  Yep, this is an exciting time to be alive!

In all seriousness, while 2010 is a year of great opportunity, it’s also one of great challenge with the glocal economy still on shaky footing, joblessness soaring acros the world, and some very credible evidence that the environment is getting more and more unstable.  Fixing the environment is a big job, but it’s not so big if we all pitch in.  That’s why Caitlin from Roaming Tales and I are doing this series on sustainable eating: so everyone can make informed decisions about food and the food supply. 


A few tidbits from my weekend:

  • We ate at a restaurant that specializes in serving food from local producers who don’t use a lot of hormones and additivies.  (EatAtTheFarmhouse.com)
  • It looks like very soon there’s going to be  a Slow Food meat tasting event in Kansas City that I might have something to do with.
  • At a farmers event at the Shawnee Farmers Expo (go to the one in Liberty, MO if you are available), we talked to a lot of meat producers who were growing food locally, sustainably and organically…aka “the right way.”

So I got to thinking about why I care about the right way and what, exactly, that means.  We’ll start by addressing the harder question first.  What is the right way?

The Right Way–Sustainable Eating

Well, as I stated before, I am an organic-avore, which is, as near as I can tell, a word I made up.   (I can hope, can’t I?)  Basically, what being an organic-avore means is that the most important thing when I go shopping is to find food that has been produced as naturally as possible.  That mean free ranges, no antibiotics, definitely no pumping the meat full of salt water to make it look nicer, etc., etc.  (That includes nice sharp blades to do the killing when it comes time to, you know, kill in a nice way.)

In general, I like the farms who can get as close to nature as possible and still provide the required level of food safety.  That’s not much of a trick these days if Whole Foods is any indiciation.  The good news, though, is that I am willing to pay for it.

Still, when I say the right way I’m not an organic-snob.  I’ll do natural.  I’ll do cage free.  I’ll even do antibotic or hormone free in a pinch.  Any of these can claim a share of being the “right way” and all are generally okay in my book.

Why I Care About Sustainable Eating

It’s all about the flavor.  Seriously.

Listen, I love the environment as much as the next guy.  I’m not really that hip to animals suffering unduly so that I can eat.  (In fact, the lingering vestiges of vegetarianism tend to creep up when I start thinking about that…)  But I probably would be writing a wholly different series on sustainable eating right now if it weren’t for Mrs. WellDone and her chicken experiment.

That experiment: chicken, salt, pepper, and a bit of olive oil in a 350 degree oven until done.

The unsuspecting subject dupe: me. (Well, the me that once complained that organic chicken was at least a dollar more a pound and who would ever pay that??)  Without telling me ,she went to Whole Foods and brought home a pair of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and served them, never telling me what they were.

To this day I remember that being some of the best chicken I’ve ever had.

So why do I care about eating food done the right way?  Because I enjoy it more.  Maybe it’s the diet, maybe it’s the lack of bad stuff, and maybe it’s the love the growers and producers shower on the food, but food done the right way tastes better and that’s enough for me.

Sure, I feel like I am doing my part to help the environment and generally up my karma by treating God’s creatures right, but that all fades away when I’m in the kitchen whipping up something delicious.

So my challenge to you is that if you haven’t tried my wife’s experiment, do it.  Don’t worry, I won’t tell.  Even more than that, I also challenge you to compare a good “non-right way” chicken breast to a “right way” chicken breast and see if you can tell the difference.  I bet you can. 

Also, notice that I said a good non-right way chicken breast.  I was once told that there was no difference in flavor between high end chicken breasts and organic chicken breasts.  Perhaps that right.  My problem is that I can’t find any non-right way chicken that’s high end.

Just a thought.

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January 2, 2010

Recipe: New Years Resolutions: A New Series on Sustainable Eating

Author: Chris PerrinJanuary 2, 2010

Welcome to 2010!  Happy New Year!

A lot of exciting things are supposed to happen this year.  If Arthur C. Clarke is right, this year Jupiter will turn into a sun thanks to the efforts of Roy Schneider.  We’re 2 years away from the Mayan (Aztec?) apocalypse.  Yep, this is an exciting time to be alive!

In all seriousness, while 2010 is a year of great opportunity, it’s also one of great challenge with the glocal economy still on shaky footing, joblessness soaring acros the world, and some very credible evidence that the environment is getting more and more unstable. 

If one of your goals is to help the environment, that’s great.   If not, give it some thought.  We’ve only get one planet to live on and even if you don’t believe the environment is in peril, reducing waste has a net positive economic impact.  Besides, sometimes its better to err on the side of caution just in case the environmental scientists are right.

That’s why Caitlin Fitzsimmons from Roaming Tales and I are teaming up to present a new series on sustainable eating.  These posts will cover topics about organic vs. local eating, reducing waste in packaging, reducing waste when you eat, food miles, etc.  Since this is a food blog, there will be plenty of recipes to go along with these sustainable eating ideas.  As Caitlin says, neither of us are absolutists nor do we think that you’re going to do absolutely everything we recommend.  Rather, my hope is that you choose to make 1 change.  Just do one thing different.  Maybe it’s buy sustainably raised meat for one meal a week or, better yet, eat vegetarian one meal.

Then if that feels okay, try something else.  If that feels good, then you can do something else.  If everyone does a little, no one has to do a lot and we can bring about a positive change!

Ok, that’s all for now, but check back next week when I’ll talk about why we decided to do this series.  See you then!

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