Taste Talks: Chicken’s New Era?
The inaugural Taste Talks conference – a two-day series of discussions on modern food culture, curated by New York-based chef April Bloomfield – took place in Brooklyn, New York on September 14 and 15. One of the main panel debates addressed the idea of chicken being increasingly reared, marketed and viewed by consumers as a speciality ingredient, rather than a mass commodity.
In recent years, intensive farming has devalued chicken in price and perception. Furthermore, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced last month that it would allow chickens reared and slaughtered in the US to be processed (into products such as nuggets) in China, and then exported back to the US. Controversially, this is all without the need for a label of origin or an official USDA inspector present at Chinese sites, according to the New York Times.
This lack of transparency is fuelling a backlash and a desire for traceability, so that the whole process from hatchery to table is ethical and can be conveyed to consumers. Speakers also agreed that more focus should be put on rearing specific breeds of the bird, in order to showcase the range of flavours and textures that different varieties can provide.
The rising popularity of heritage chickens – around 24 breeds that have mated naturally, have a slow growth rate and a long (up to seven years) outdoor lifespan – could potentially turn the industry around, according Catherine Greeley of Brooklyn-based meat supplier Heritage Food USA. “There is no question that a heritage breed has a lot more flavour than a Cornish Cross – it’s a lot stronger flavour which some people find gamey,” said Jonathan Waxman of New York restaurant Barbuto.
For more on Brooklyn's burgeoning food scene, see our coverage of Brooklyn Eats!