Broilers, Roasters, and Stew Birds
The volunteers and staff at The Wild Ramp are reporting daily requests for chicken, and it has been awhile since there has been chicken in the store. It is coming, I promise. That is part of seasonal eating. It doesn’t just apply to produce. It also applies to meat.
Raising the chicks that eventually become your broilers and roasters is hard to do in the winter months unless there is a heated building for them. New chicks require a space that is around 95 degrees for the first week. Even if a farmer had a place to raise the chicks, keeping chickens on pasture is hard to do in January. 😉
The chickens you’ll find at The Wild Ramp will be labelled as broilers, roasters, or stew birds. Let’s take a minute to talk about the differences.
Broilers are specifically raised for meat. They are a cross bred chicken that is bred to be compact and meaty. They have a lot of white meat. These are the same type of birds that are raised commercially for the grocery store. In a large commercial operation they may be processed at about 6-8 weeks old. On pasture they grow a little slower, and are typically processed around the 10 week mark. Their meat is tender and they work well for all cooking methods.
Roasters can come from a large variety of chicken breeds. They can be heritage breeds, and/or breeds that are considered dual purpose. The dual purpose being egg laying and heavy enough to be a good meat producer. Typically the hens from these breeds are kept for egg laying. The roosters become roasters. A roaster is processed around 6-8 months of age. Did you catch that difference? Broiler – 6-10 weeks. Roaster 6-8 months. Roasters typically have more dark meat and less white meat. They also work well for all cooking methods, but their texture may not be quite as tender. Personally, I think their meat has more flavor.
To illustrate the difference between a broiler and a roaster:
A stew bird can be any breed, and is simply a chicken processed at over 10 months of age. Typically, these are older hens that are no longer producing eggs. As their name implies, they are best stewed. Cook them long and slow with liquid. They are great for making soups, chicken and dumplings, broth, or to de-bone to use in casseroles and such.
Spring weather is here. Farmers are raising chicks. Locally raised, pastured chickens are coming soon!