Baby chicks come in the mail. Most people don’t realize this until they start to think about where chickens come from. Like most things, you order them on the internet. I have ordered egg-production chickens in the past, but this flock to be delivered during the week of April 25 is different because 20 of them will be harvested as meat birds around the Fourth of July.
In the universe of knowing where your food comes from, raising and slaughtering your own animals is just about as close to the source you can get.
This is a very important project for me, personally and professionally, because I work really hard to walk-the-walk and speak from a place of experience beyond dogma. In the universe of knowing where your food comes from, raising and slaughtering your own animals is just about as close to the source you can get.
So, I ordered my birds with a few things in mind. First, I wanted a heritage breed and decided on the red rangers. Their breast meat will be proportionately smaller and darker than the more popular Cornish cross or jumbo cross but they will look and behave like chickens and not ovenstuffinroasters with feathers. The red rangers will forage and walk farther than a few feet from their food source and are unlikely to collapse under the weight of their own bulk while growing, a common problem with the cross breeds.
I also ordered 25 chicks for egg production. This will make it easier to convince my animal-loving three-year-old that we only had 25 and not 45 birds to begin with (right, parents of toddlers?), and also that I will again have backyard eggs, one of life’s great and simple pleasures.
Finally, I will disassociate from these birds as anything but a crop. I know it sounds cold but believe me, worse than denying the instinct to anthropomorphize meat birds is having 15 or so juvenile roosters reaching sexual maturity in my backyard.
Will the chicks be cute? No doubt about it, and I’ll get all the cooing of my system early. They will remain nameless and born to fulfill the singular purpose of being part of the food chain.
Up Next: Preparing the Coop
If you have questions about raising chickens, the ethics of eating meat or anything else chicken or cooking related, I also write the Ask Chef Emily column and would love to add your voice: