It’s a standing joke that any new or exotic meat we try ‘tastes like chicken’. This is no doubt due to chicken’s mild taste and uniform texture. It makes it a natural bench-mark for when we have nothing else to compare new tastes to. It also makes it a blank slate for use in many different cuisines, almost like a background ingredient for when protein is needed, but strong flavour is not. It’s hardly surprising, then, that chicken, more than any other meat, is a staple and popular ingredient throughout the world.
There are times, though, when chicken becomes the star of the show. For many, the Sunday roast is often chicken, and many a week-end table is crowned with a gleaming golden bird. The family cook (note: I didn’t say ‘Mum’ – how PC of me!) will go to great pains to enhance that subtle flavour and keep the bird moist and succulent.
It’s at times like this, when we want to enjoy the chicken’s flavour rather than just the protein, that quality matters. For many people, too, it matters how a bird is raised, because not all chicken is raised equal.
While it’s easy to assume chicken is just chicken, how it’s raised, and the quality of life it has while it matures, can make a huge difference to how it tastes on your plate, and how you feel about consuming it.
We’re all familiar with the traditional farmyard image of a chicken scratching in the dirt outside in the sunshine, and since they were first domesticated thousands of years ago, this is how chickens have always been kept. Years ago it was not uncommon for many families in town or country to keep a few chickens in the garden to supplement their diet with fresh eggs and meat.
Since the last World War, however, things changed. Rapid developments in technology and the demand for cheaper food soon saw chickens being cramped into vast barns, often in wire cages, and force-grown to generate a faster turnover. Mass production of chicken meat and eggs has not only caused a great deal of suffering on the part of the poor chicken, but eroded the purpose they’ve been raised for in the first place – a versatile, healthy and tasty protein.
When older generations reminisce about the way chicken tasted when they were young, they’re not just being nostalgic. Happy chickens are healthier, plumper and tastier, so the traditionally-raised chicken they ate as kids really did taste better. It’s not something we can appreciate until we try it for ourselves, and, fortunately, that’s not impossible.
Farmers Markets engage local producers who specialise in raising food by traditional methods – that is, happy beasties living in an environment they’d enjoy in their natural state, protected from predators and living a care- and stress-free life. With checks in place for the standard and methods of their producers’ practices, Farmers Markets ensure customers can buy their chicken without worrying about quality or ethics.
For Taunton Farmers Market, that means Beechridge Farm. Based near Hockworthy, Beechridge Farm raises high-quality, free-range chickens grown slowly and allowed to mature. If you’re looking for that old-fashioned, real-flavour chicken, that’s who you need to see.
As well as whole birds, you can buy jointed chicken, boilers, and (something foodies often enjoy) offal. They also have a range of chicken sausages. Sound strange? If you join us on a Thursday, you get to try some for free and, trust me, once you’ve tried, you’ll have to buy. Try their chicken burgers, too. An alternative and much healthier option to the traditional grease-laden burger you get from a supermarket – Beechridge’s burgers and sausages are typically less than 5% fat.
Chicken’s not the only bird on offer, either. If you want a truly delicious duck, they have it, whole or jointed. Now that Christmas is looming on the horizon, geese and turkey are available to order right now. They also have a selection of lamb cuts and joints on offer.
Improve your quality of life by improving the quality of your food. Visit Taunton Farmer’s Market on a Thursday and discover a wealth of healthy, local and delicious produce fit for any Christmas table.