I started eating meat this year when I found out I was pregnant with Pearl. Our bodies need so much protein to support a healthy pregnancy and I'm just not as creative with food as some of my vegetarian friends. The first meat I ate was what I call "meat without the guilt." Our friends at a local sheep dairy had recently had a mountain lion attack and leave a lamb for dead. They gave us a large portion of the lamb, which Glenn made into a fantastic stew. I tried to think of ways to scavenge all of my meat, but as it turns out, half eaten fresh meat is hard to come by. So I ate pasture-raised chicken and happy cows from a farm in Cayucos, CA. It's not that I have anything against eating meat in general, it's just that I think mass production of meat in the United States is disgusting, unhealthy and inhumane. Ideally I would hunt for my food, if only I had the cojones.
When Glenn brought up the fact that he would like to raise meat chickens, I was a bit apprehensive as I was sort of happy living on a "no kill" farm. We live close to a farm that sells pasture-raised chickens at the local farmer's market. The difference between pasture-raised chickens and free-range chickens is incredible. Pasture-raised chickens actually live outside and are free to eat bugs, seeds, plants and insects. They also have a shelter at night and nesting boxes. Free-range chickens are not confined to cages, but there are no rules about the size of their roaming area.
Glenn heard there is a demand for heritage chickens that are pasture-raised, so he started doing his research about different heritage chickens. Glenn would like to breed the chickens, then sell the chicks to our local farm to be pasture raised. Glenn ordered three rare heritage breeds from the Sand Hill Preservation Center: Buckeye, Mottled Java and Delaware. Several weeks ago he sent one rooster from each kind to the farm to be pasture raised. When the roosters reach optimal size, we will have a bar-b-cue to find out which one tastes the best. Next year Glenn will focus on breeding that heritage chicken.
The Buckeye was the first breed of chicken to be developed by a woman. It was originally established by Mrs. Nettie Metcalf in the late 1880s. Nettie wanted to develop a hardy chicken that could withstand the cold Ohio winters. This chicken looks like a Rhode Island Red, except it has a pea comb.
The gentle Delaware first originated in the state of (surprise) Delaware by a man named George Ellis. He created the breed in the 1940s and wanted to call them Indian Rivers (which I think is way cooler than Delaware). The breed was once very important to the poultry industry, but was pushed out by the White Cornish Rock. It is now critically endangered.
Also critically endangered is the Mottled Java. It is considered to be the second oldest breed of chicken in the U.S., developed around 1840 from Asian stock. These guys sell for $5.00/chick! Thank goodness they all survived (and three out of four turned out to be hens!).
I'm on board now with the chicken killing. People are going to eat chicken and isn't it better they eat a chicken that has climbed a tree or chased a butterfly than some poor soul that has never seen the sun? I'm also happy we will be raising endangered heritage birds. At least we will be helping in a small way to keep one of these breeds from going extinct.