Sunday, September 30, 2012
Wondering whether there is a difference between organic and "regular" chickens, I decided to find out. I'd been feeling a little weird about how Sanderson Farms or Foster Farms chickens can be purchased whole for as little as $0.79/lb on sale. That's a whole chicken for about five bucks.
Coastal Range Organics young chickens are available whole for $2.49/lb at Costco which seems astronomical in comparison. But isn't that a little nuts? $2.49 a pound isn't really expensive when considering ground beef consistently goes for more. I admit to blocking the chicken cooler for 10 minutes while I weighed my decision. $23 for chicken.
Leaving the store, I didn't have buyers remorse. No matter what, my intention was to use all of (ok, 95% of) the chickens as I normally do. One of the two birds was placed directly into the freezer. The second one was investigated further.
It was easy to decide which of the two birds to put in the freezer: the one in the completely closed package! Yes, this one had a breach where the staple didn't grab all of the plastic or the plastic bag had somehow been pulled out. Sniffing the opening, the chicken didn't smell like anything but chicken.
Being an organic chicken means it was fed organic food, was not subjected to "added" antibiotics or hormones, no animal by-products (which I'm guessing would be food for non-organic birds), and it's fresh and all natural. Hmm. Where have I heard that? Oh yeah, Foster Farms says that too. Wait, no, they say, "always fresh, always natural".
The back of the package describes briefly the food provided to the birds, the pesticide free land they are grown on (and are supposed to literally have access to but I won't go into what this could possibly mean, there are plenty of other sites that discuss this topic in detail), and the third party organic certification. Should you care to contact Coastal Range Organics, their address is on the package too. The zip code is complete, unlike the one provided on the Contact Us page of their website.
Chicken Nutrition Facts anyone?
Ok, so now is there a visible difference? The skin does not seem to be as yellow as most birds I've purchased in my life. Otherwise, pretty much the same. Chicken's chicken.
The amount of fat attached to the skin at the cavity opening seemed to be less than a usual chicken. Otherwise I can't tell this bird from any other.
Walking around the internet now, my suspicions were confirmed: Coastal Range Organics is the organic line of Foster Farms chicken. What I don't know is where the Coastal Range Organics birds are farmed. Washington state? I am inclined to believe that the Foster Farms birds I get at my grocers here in Orange County are from central California based on the number of dots on this page. It'd be nice to know exactly where the farms are but I can see why they don't advertise those locations. PETA people can get crazy.
I wonder this aloud because, well, I don't spend too much time consciously choosing organic over non-organic food. I don't spend a lot of time considering the carbon footprint of what I eat either. Easily you could say it must be because I don't give a shit, but really it's because I am prone to over-analysis-paralysis. It can be hard to decide what to do for me, the chickens, and the environment. It's not just about how many miles of road a chicken is driven in a refrigerated diesel guzzler, but the treatment of the animals, the impact of the farm they are grown on, the FDA's vague labeling acceptance. Weighing all of those variables is overwhelming! Hats off to those who have the diligence, stamina, and dedication to vie for only organic or strictly local.
My trend/guideline is to keep it simple: taste and quality aside, buy the more local choice. Standing in the store, I'll choose the Hawaiian sugar over the Paraguayan sugar if offered a choice (though as the crow flies I'm not sure there's much difference) for example. This article by Deborah Madison resonated with me. Sometimes just trying to maintain a well-balanced diet is too much and I wind up eating junk (ahem, cookie dough for dinner 10 days straight?) which certainly doesn't help anything.
Whether I wind up buying more of these birds or going back to the regular chickens, I'll buy Foster Farms over Sanderson Farms. I don't have reason to believe there's anything wrong with Sanderson's fowl, I just learned that Sanderson Farms is based in Missouri and their most western processing facility is in Texas, a couple states away from me. For now I'll vote not to eat Texan chickens.
Coastal Range Organics chickens, available in packs of two at Costco for $2.49 a pound.