The $70 Chicken

Friday, January 4, 2013

Pastured Chicken: Chaffin Family Orchards
I don't often make New Year's Resolutions. However, I am quite good at breaking them. Which is probably why I don't make a lot of New Year's Resolutions. But if there's one thing that I resolve to do in 2013 -- it's this: Invest in more $70 chickens.

What's that you say? A $70 chicken? Is this a chicken made out of gold, perchance? I know what you're thinking. The last time you visited your local supermarket, you didn't see any of them $70 chickens. Nor would you buy such a thing. Chickens are cheap! Especially if you watch the sales and buy in bulk like we do thanks to a handy-dandy floor freezer.

Foster Farms Chicken!
The wife that is Venus and I do happen to "shop the sales." I must admit -- I am a tad partial to my Foster Farms chicken. I grew up less than a stone's throw from an old Foster Farms processing facility on McHenry Avenue in Modesto (it's a fire station now), which is Foster Farms "home territory." It's also the home of one of the last "Chicken Barns," but we'll save that story for another day.

If Venus and I spot a store ad for Foster Farms whole chickens selling at a price of 79-cents or 89-cents per pound? Count us "there" and attempting to corner the market. We have a million and one different recipes for chicken dishes, ranging from beer can chicken, honey-barbequed chicken, fried chicken, baked chicken... You get the story. Chicken is a fabulous meal.

The $70 Chicken: Cut Up and Ready for BBQ
But the $70 chicken? The $70 chicken is special. The $70 chicken is never on sale. The $70 chicken is available only for a few weeks every year. If there's one thing I've learned, it's this: Foster Farms cannot compete with the $70 chicken.

What am I? "Made of gold," you ask? Not hardly. But I've discovered something quite good and I'm not letting go of it.

The Logo Says It All
During my months of research on the Duke Avocado, it's storied beginnings in Butte County and it's legendary ability to withstand frosty cold conditions I began to gain awareness of a 2,000 acre family farm located just north of Oroville. Five generations of the Chaffin family have farmed this land, and according to the words printed on their own family website: "have had a deep respect for the environment, preservation of open space, promoting wildlife and producing food for the local community."

I would come to learn that more than just Duke Avocados came from the Chaffin operation. The family presses their own olive oil from old growth Mission Olive trees. I was shocked to receive a recent email from the ranch operation, informing me that one can purchase "shares" in the upcoming olive harvest and olive oil production. SHARES? In olive oil? I'd heard of purchasing stock in companies or precious minerals, but OLIVE OIL? I remember chuckling at the thought.

Shares? In Olive Oil? You Kidding?
As it turns out, the joke was on me. By the time I seriously got around to thinking about purchasing a share or two, none was to be had. I suffered the same disappointment when I waited to place orders for an upcoming grass fed beef sale. I balked at the price. By the time I finally ginned up the courage to buy? There was nothing left to buy, not so much as a soup bone.

I couldn't begin to understand, yet, why these products would vanish so quickly. It's not like grass-fed beef is hard to find. It's more expensive than conventionally produced beef, but it's easy to find if you know where to look. But never had a I run across a situation like this: Wait, and you'll be SORR-EE.

Chaffin Broilers on Pasture
I vowed that I would not make the same mistake when I was alerted to sales of Chaffin's pastured chickens. They are sold only twice a year, in the spring and fall,  and like the grass-fed beef, if you wait too long to place that order...

And -- so -- I placed that order.

It wasn't until I traveled to the Nevada City Farmer's Market that sunny October morning did I truly realize just what I had done. First: Nevada City is a LONG way off the beaten path from the Bird Back 40 when it comes to purchasing chicken. Let's just say the neighborhood market is just a tad closer. Secondly, I wasn't expecting a price tag of -- GULP -- $70 for three chickens.

OMG! Have I Lost It Completely?
It was at that crucial point where I read the fine print. Pastured chickens cost $4.95. Not per chicken mind you. That's $4.95 PER POUND. With each chicken weighing anywhere from 4-5 lbs., I could just see the reaction from the wife that is Venus. I would soon be sleeping in the backyard with the cats...

What's so special about pastured chicken? Again, from the Chaffin Family website: "Because about a third of a truly pasture raised chicken's diet actually comes from forage of grass and bugs in the pasture, they have more healthy fats like Omega 3's and CLA (Conjulated Linoleic Acid) in the meat. They are allowed to be happy and joyful chickens, which adds to the quality of the meat."

BBQ Chaffin Chicken: Heaven on Earth
Yeah, OK, but here's the $64 question: Are they really worth $70?

That is a question that I will leave to you, faithful blog explorer. What I can tell you, however, is this much: There is a world of taste difference between those chickens that sell for $5 or $6 in the store, and those that have been raised on pasture grass and bugs. You'll notice it in the first juicy bite of one of those very special chickens.

I've never tasted chicken like this before. I'm not sure how to describe it to you in simple terms, but I can tell you that only one of the original three chickens is left in the freezer and the wife is saving it for one very special event. A special event deserves a special chicken. The taste of any meal prepared with a Chaffin pastured chicken is incredible.

And now the final question? Will I gin up the courage to buy more next spring? But of course! I'm beginning to like spending nights in the backyard with the cats...

Visit the Chaffin Family Orchards website here.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Bird:

Thanks for the information about Chaffin Family Orchards. I hadn't heard of them before and you've made me anxious to try their goods. I'm also intrigued by the frost-tolerant avocado. Having tried, withtout success to grow an avacodo tree in my yard, I'm inspired to try yet again. I must say though, you have a flair for sensationalism. I was drawn in by your $70 chicken heading, only to find out they're in fact $23 chickens. Also of concern is that you're lovely wife would allow the cats to sleep in the backyard; I though she was kinder than that.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading your story.


Venus' Secret Admirer

Jenn's Cooking Garden! said...

I love Chaffin Family Orchards! I buy olives from them every year and cure them myself! They do have awesome Avocados as well! They also have a delivery spot in Natomas