Restaurants searching for a local poultry source | News
Like any election, there’s a ballot to decide the winner, but this time around chickens were the subject, ranked one through four. A chicken tasting was held earlier this week at the Main Market Co-Op in downtown Spokane. Members of the food industry gathered to rank four types of pasture-raised chickens: Dorking, La Flèche, Naked Neck and Freedom Ranger. One of these chickens, based on taste and economical value, could be the next poultry item on their menu.
Flavors are affected by the chicken’s environment. With only plant and insect material to munch on, Forrest Phillips’ chickens are raised in what he describes as free-range and natural. Phillips and his wife Deb, run Heritage Naturals southeast of Colville. They raise heritage animals from chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, rabbits and hogs.
Pitching their product to regional restaurant chefs is one way to get themselves out there. A chef for the South Hill restaurant, Casper Fry, is looking for a new poultry distributor. Joshua Martin hopes to find a product that’s not only local, but economical.
“We’re committed to getting as much local stuff as we can that makes sense economically for our restaurant. We already get locally raised hogs and locally raised vegetables,” Martin said.
Chicken is another story. The restaurant, Martin said, goes through a lot of chicken. In the first month and a half of business, Casper Fry has cooked up about 1,800 orders of fried chicken and about 500 half chickens.
They already go through Food Services of America to consistently provide their poultry. To keep up the demand for Casper Fry, the Phillips would need to provide about 120 birds per week through the winter and fall.
“Is the price right? I don’t mind paying more for local, helping out my neighbor and supplying that throughout the year,” Martin said.
The winning bird in Monday’s taste test, the Freedom Ranger chicken, is offered by Heritage Naturals at $2.40 per pound for a whole chicken. That’s the wholesale pricing for 2012.
In order to meet the restaurant’s needs, the farmers would need to transport poultry about 72 miles to the South Perry Business District. Deb Phillips says they currently raise about 1,000 Freedom Ranger chickens, but that’s at their peak. The farmer says they’re on their downward turn to the winter season.
“You can’t get a pasture chicken when there’s no grass. We don’t raise birds in the winter time,” Deb explained. “In the spring, we start over.”
To clarify, the winner of the taste test, the Freedom Ranger chicken, is the only chicken raised by Heritage Naturals. The other three were raised in small supply by Heritage Naturals by request of a customer.