When I was in college, I got a taste of my first Rocky chicken. Wow! Who would have thought that the way a chicken was raised and the feed they were given would make such a difference in the taste. When I asked the butcher what makes them so good, he replied, “They’re free range so they get to run around and have fun before they’re brought here.” Hmm.
There’s actually a lot more to the raising of a chicken that affects its health, taste and overall impact on the environment. Petaluma Poultry has led the industry in creating healthier, more sustainably raised, tasty chicken.
Their sustainable farming practices distinguish these chickens from those raised conventionally in this country. Both their Rocky and Rosie chickens share the following characteristics:
• Their feed contains no antibiotics. In contrast, conventional growers use antibiotics to stimulate growth.
• Chickens taste like what they eat, and at Petaluma Poultry the vegetarian diet consists of corn and soybean meal. Conventional feed contains animal fat and animal byproducts.
• The chickens grow from day one to maturity in a stress free environment – spacious poultry houses that have natural daylight. They roam freely throughout these barns; the earth floor is covered with a layer of rice hulls, a natural bedding.
• The chickens receive humane treatment at all times during their lives.
• The ranchers use sustainable farming methods.
A question we’re often asked is “What is Free Range?” USDA standards allow any poultry with access to the outside – even a small, outdoor, concrete pad – to be labeled free range. Petaluma Poultry believes that free range chickens are raised in spacious poultry houses. Petaluma’s birds get approximately 25% more space per bird than those raised in conventional poultry operations. Depending upon the farm, the pens outside are 50% to 100% of the size of the inside houses.
Beginning at approximately four weeks of age, when the birds are fully feathered and able to withstand both exposure to the sun and cooler outside temperatures, the birds are allowed to roam outside of the house beginning about mid-morning, and are then ushered back inside the house around 5 pm. They are locked inside the house at night to protect them from predators. So free range managed in this way makes for a stress free environment for the chickens.
So then how to you choose between these superstars, Rocky and Rosie?
Rocky was the first USDA approved free range chicken. A premium roasting bird averaging 5 pounds, Rocky has access to fenced yards where the birds are free to roam in the open air and forage through the native grasses. Rocky is about 9 weeks old when brought to market.
Rosie was the first chicken in the United States to carry a certified organic label. Rosie’s diet consists of 100% certified organic corn and soybean grown on soil that has been free of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers for at least three years. Petaluma Poultry raises Rosie in accordance with the organic protocols independently verified by Oregon Tilth, a third party certifier. Rosie is a free range chicken, allowed to run and forage outdoors in an open-air, fenced area outside the barn. At market, Rosie’s weight averages 4 pounds.
At Sigona’s, we offer both, and customers regularly tell us that we sell them cheaper than other stores, so come on by and take one home tonight. Plus, try the recipe from Petaluma Poultry for Grilled Orange Sesame Chicken and Vegetables. It uses our last of season oranges that you’ll want to get while you can.