Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Creepy Meat - Tastes Like Chicken!

The verdict is in.... those creepy meat birds tastes like chicken!  Our experiment with the dinner chickens had come to an end with.. dinner.

It seems like it was longer but we got the Cornish X "meat chickens" on March 24th. We started with 10, lost two for no apparent reason (other than, well, the creepiness)...and dressed the remaining 8 on Monday May 24. So at 9 weeks we had a big heap of creepy meat:
After a day of parting up the birds.. we got a huge amount of meat!

The birds were huge.. we had one roaster that filled the pan and easily was 10 pounds. To put it in perspective, Runner hatched her chicken chicks on April 3rd.. about 10 days later. The largest of her brood of "normal" chicks is the size of a pigeon. One of them is still feathering in..... wow what a difference! See the one whole bird (top right) fills a normal sized dinner plate.

As advertised they were meaty. The breasts are huge, as are the leg quarters.
Just three breasts filled my 9x13 pan

As you can see I parted the birds up. Aside from the one roaster and one full breast, its easier for us to have "ready to eat" portions that thaw quickly and are more manageable for just two. I used the same process to cut up these chickens as I did with the turkeys. 

The work went really fast. It took me less than 2 hours to part up 7 birds (we roasted one whole) and thats with me being swarmed by very interested house cats. After I took off the choice cuts I put the rest in stockpots to simmer for about 24 hours. So far, two of the three stock pots produced 7 quarts of stock, six containers of leavin's for the house cats, and one big bowl of the best meat for us to use in quick pasta tosses and chicken salad. Tomorrow I'll can the rest of the stock and meat for us.

The gladlock containers are filled with leavin's for the house cats.Teddi Grumpkins, will be one happy girl. She loves the necks the best. The glass bowl has the meat for us.

So the question is... are we going to get them again?  The answer is... the jury is still out.

Here are our thoughts...as a reminder, a lot of folks love meat chickens and they work out for many, many people as well as a huge industry.  But we don't think they worked out for us.

This is the last picture we have of the meaties... about 10 days before we dressed them. I couldn't bring myself to take a "one last look" picture. Mostly because they were so gross.

We have had extraordinary rain and since these chickens aren't very lively, they were muddy. They just looked ratty. They smelled bad (we had been warned), and they were starting to get aggressive. We think we let them go just a bit too long as the males were starting to 'mature' and had started to fight each other.. but only for like 8 seconds at a time. Then they had to sit down. In the mud. Creepy factor: High.  "F-"

The butchering went very smoothly. We have our processing process down pretty well so no problems there. Unfortunately we are still the worst pluckers EVER but we did OK with these. These meaties don't have a lot of feathers so there wasn't much mess. So " A+" on that.

We chilled them in the beer fridge for several days. We keep that 'extra' fridge extra cold - almost freezing which quickly chills the meat. Resting it in this manner helps with the texture. We just wrap them loosely and let set. Most poultry benefits from this short aging. Folks who complain that their chickens are tough generally rush this and put them birds in the freezer too soon. Ease of handling: A+

To be truthful as I was parting them up I was wow'd by how meaty they were. It was a little weird how easy it was to cut them up, tho.  Almost like they don't have the same strength in their joints and tendons as a normal chicken. At one point I put down my knife and could disjoint them barehanded (points off for the ick factor, even tho it was easier). Processing process: B-

I was almost convinced to get these again when.... I found this:

This, friends, is green muscle disease. I had no idea what it was and ran and hid under a table until the dogs talked me out. Then after a quick check with someone in-the-know...and some research... and I came to understand this affects meat variety chickens and turkeys. If they get too much exercise, or grow to fast, the blood flow to these muscles is cut off and this is what happens. Apparently you can trim around it and its just fine. I'm still ick-ed out so we used the leg quarters and tossed the rest. So in addition to the 2 we lost growing them out...and we had to chuck a third.. Losses were 3 of 10... "D+" at best.

Especially since we still have 3 of the 15 Red Broilers we got last summer. The Red Broilers weren't as fast growing but they were more "normal."

If the cost of raising these birds is about $10 each (depending), we definitely got our money's worth. And it does taste like chicken. "B+"


We compared this experiment to when we got the meat variety of turkeys. Sure it tasted like turkey, there was a lot of meat.... and nothing special. However, when we dressed and cooked up one of the Bourbon Red turkeys... our socks were knocked completely off. While these meaties were good and tasted like chicken... they are not extraordinary. We were more impressed with the Red Broilers from Ideal... even if we didn't get the huge breasts like we did with these meaties.

Based on our results my recommendation is... go with turkeys. Turkeys are easy and fun, the heritage breeds reproduce naturally, and they generally can fend for themselves. Once the turks get past the "danger zone" as poults, they are hardy, free range like pros, and don't need much from us. In about the same amount of time it takes us to process one chicken we can do one turkey...and we get 5 times the meat. But since sometimes all you want is fried chicken.... go ahead and get some "meaties" and see for yourself.

As for us... we don't think we will get them again. But if you'll pardon me, I'm going to look up the website for Ideal and see when they have shipping dates later in the summer. I"m thinking we may just need some more of those Red Broilers.

p.s. I'm having chicken for dinner!


Chai Chai said...

Great detailed post. Turkeys for sure next year!

Chai Chai said...

....because that green muscle gives me the creeps.......

Mimi said...

I've been watching this from the side-lines since I am a city gal. Just wanted to say the last time I read about these, people were reporting chickens whose legs snapped from the weight of their bodies. Yikes!

I'm sure I've eaten these. My grocery carries unnaturally large chicken breasts. They taste fine, but... it sure is strange to be able to easily split a chicken breast two or three ways.

Are you going to try out some heritage breeds of chickens? Oklahoma state university has a great site that shows all the breeds. Here is the link:

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Hey CC! Yep turkeys are the way to go. Definitely. Easy and fun.

Hey Mimi! Great to see you - I was about to wander your way...

and yep! We have some heritage breed chickens... we go for the "dual purpose" chickens. We like Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks, and Buff Orpingtons the best. And some of our 'mutts' have been the best for us.

Once we got some Golden Campines - a truly 'endangered' breed. They are The Worst Chickens EVER. No wonder they died out - everyone hated them! Honestly we dumped 3 and kept one. We hate her so much but we can't do her in because of the crushing guilt of dispatching an endangered species!

We also got some Buckeyes... a great breed for around here.. but a little loco. We have one that I call Trinity b/c of her Matrix-style move she busts on me every single morning. For heavens sakes, Trinity, just WALK out of the coop like everyone else!


teresa said...

I always learn something when I read your blog :-) Good to know about Green Muscle disease--something I'd never heard of!

Sally said...

Hey O!

K, that green meat was just plain NARSTY!! Yucky, blech!

P.S. I used to hate those huge chicken breasts until I figured out I could pound them flat, season and cook them quickly on the grill...YUM! One breast fed 3 people!

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Howdy Teresa! Yep, we might as well all learn together. This was not one of the 'fun' things to learn. But I'm glad I know now.

hey BBH! Thats what we did with some of the portions. If you whack 'em flat, separate with waxed paper, then freeze.. easy-peasy dinner later.

But the whole thing kinda makes you look sideways at that chicken sandwich from the $1 menu...doesn't it?

One Sunny Acre said...

They are beastly aren't they? And I don't think they have much of a chicken "life". Unbelievable the feed conversion efficiency on them though and since they don't get any exercise, they are so tender and even the dark meat looks like white meat.

We've grown them for 2 years now and have been satisfied with them except for the fact that they are not sustainable.

Their feed management has to be tightly regulated to prevent health problems. Although they can and will, they shouldn't be allowed to gain too much too fast. We butcher the males at 6-7 weeks and the females at 8-9 weeks. This yields about a 4-5 lb. dressed weight, with the males generally a bit bigger.

I am planning on trying Buckeyes this year instead. I would like to not have to continue buying chicks from the hatcheries and since the Cornish X are hybrids (mutants!) I can't effectively breed them myself.

But man, are they plump and juicy...

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Great thoughts 1SA! We definitely think we waited a bit too long...and they are plump and juicy! You said it perfectly about how the dark meat is like 'white meat.' I was trying to think of a way to describe it.. that's just it.

The Buckeyes are maniacs...wow they free range like pros and aren't afraid of anything. They are great for cold weather and they lay like the dickens. We got ours from Ideal. The only problem we've had with them (Aside from Trinity - see above) is that its hard to get them all herded up at night. They are lollygaggers...and want to stay outside. We have too many predators for them to roost where they want but they'd stay outside if they could. I'd think a Buckeye rooster would be a catch for any barnyard.

Thanks for your thoughts!

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