The Need for Heritage Poultry
Sometimes situations put your mind into gear and make you realize change can just sneak up on you and you you don't even realize how much time has passed and how things have changed. In 1989 a few months after I started this venture to save rare and endangered vegetables seeds and poultry the poultry situation in the US was rapidly declining with varieties and breeds disappearing almost monthly. My good friend from Ohio Tom Knoche told me he wanted me to find Buckeye chickens as he was from the Buckeye state . He joked that a buckeye is a worthless nut and wondered if the chicken breed was the same. I searched and searched and found long time SPPA breeder Duane Urch in Minnesota had some but ran into dead ends everywhere else. There was no hatchery in the US selling them at the time and the SPPA breeders directory was void of listings except for Duane's. I ventured up to Duane's and brought home a few of his older breeders. They were pretty but everyone said wow look at the Rhode Island Reds with the bad comb. I immediately noticed the behavior differences, mannerisms etc. and realized they were different. I increased them and worked with them and started trying to sell them with no luck. I found another source a year later when OSU sold their last birds and got some vigor and visited with long time chicken breeder Thane Earle who had had them at one time and he gave me some tips and I set out to attempt to keep them going. No one wanted them so for years they went out in assortments. I remember one lady who got about 25 in her 50 assorted heavies and she was peaved. Why was I sending out a ugly version of Rhode Island Red. Well 30 years later and low and behold last Sunday after church I went to the local farm store to get some supplies and there was a whole tub of young Buckeye chicks and not just straight run but they were only selling pullets. What a blessing to see they made it and are now a member of the popular crowd. You can now find them in many hatcheries. Hard to believe 30 years ago there probably wasn't more than 30 birds left.
Why we must save heritage poultry came home to our dinner table this week. With Linda being in the hospital for 7 months last year I could not get everything done and butchering poultry was low on the get done list. Anyhow, we were out of our own chicken in the freezer and now that Linda is feeling better and doing more cooking she wanted to make chicken fettucini and she does it well. With no chicken in the freezer she bought some bone in chicken breasts and cooked them down to make her recipe. I noticed the ugly mess of globby fat in the pot and wondered what went wrong and then the texture of the meat, yuk it was awful, mushy and gummy like bad low grade tuna with absolutely no flavor. The broth was tasteless and she used all her normal seasonings. The fettucini was less than stellar. I chocked it up to my spoiled taste buds until today when someone stopped while I was doing chores and begged me to sell him a couple of leghorn roosters for his 90 year old grandma. She has a birthday this Saturday and desperately wants to have real chicken one more time . I had noticed for years when I take lunch count at school almost no student eats when it is unbreaded chicken patty but they all eat when it is breaded. Basically the coating adds the flavor.
I took the time yesterday to butcher 5 chickens and begged Linda to not buy any more modern broiler chickens. Life is too short to deal with that mess, real heritage breeds may be "tough" to some but I would rather chew a bit and have some flavor.