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Navigating pastured poultry challenges

posted on

March 4, 2024

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If you’ve followed us for long, you know that we’ve been working through significant challenges that have threatened our ability to continue offering chicken to our customers.

That said, we’re not giving up; instead, we plan to double down our efforts with significant investments and new collaborations for 2024 and beyond.

This blog post is longer than usual, but because trust and transparency are a high priority to us, I invite you to read along to stay informed.

Before diving into the updates, let me first explain the gravity of the challenges that small-scale pastured poultry farmers are up against.

The 3 biggest challenges facing small-scale poultry

Challenge #1: Lack of processing

Compared to beef and pork, our ability to access USDA processing capabilities for poultry is extremely limited and costly. You see, the chicken industry has built multi-million dollar processing plants utilizing robots and automation to the point they are easily 10-20 times more efficient than small plants. As you can guess, these plants are “locked up” by the big guys. This pretty much has put a monopoly on poultry processing in the U.S.

Not to mention the picture below shows the scale and level of automation that we compete against for efficiencies:

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Photo credit: The Washington Post

According to Reuters, in the past three years, Tyson Foods has invested over $1.3 billion in automated processing equipment, allowing them to harvest over 100,000 birds per day in a single facility. Compare that to our small-scale processor that processes less than an average of 1,500 birds per day. This becomes very difficult to compete with and is a significant factor that drives our prices higher than store-bought chicken.

Challenge #2: High labor needs

I won't belabor this point (no pun intended😉) raising birds on pasture requires an exorbitant amount of manual labor cost. I would estimate our labor requirements to be 10-12 times higher compared to traditional poultry farms. In today’s labor market, finding the help we need on the farm has become increasingly difficult, as our family can only provide so much labor.

To make matters worse, all this labor is only needed during the summer, resulting in winter layoff periods and having to hire and re-train new staff the following year. Providing steady pay and work throughout the year is a major conundrum for pasture-based poultry farmers. This leads me to my next point.

Challenge #3: Seasonality

Since we’re located in the northern part of the country, we have cooler weather for six months of the year, with snow and temperatures dropping below freezing at times.

In the past, this has meant that for us to be able to sell poultry during the winter, we must raise and store double the amount of chicken during the summer.

Storing up chicken in the summer to sell later in the year means that the chicken itself ends up older than we'd prefer by the time it reaches our customers and requires a lot of expensive freezer space and energy costs. Not to mention, this leads to unmanageable cash flow challenges for us.

Many farmers attempt to extend their production window by raising birds earlier in the spring and later into the fall, but the cold conditions lead to a high bird mortality rate. That's just not something we'll consider doing.

We’ve considered raising and selling chicken only in the summer, which would only exacerbate our struggles with seasonal labor and processing inconsistencies.

Pastured poultry farms are closing their doors

All these issues I’ve discussed above are compounding to the point that they threaten our ability to continue offering chicken to our customers.

Just in the last few years, I’ve witnessed several well-established poultry farms give up after over a decade-long attempt to make it work.

I also see many of my fellow farms struggling with thin margins because they are absorbing all the cost on themselves, thus crippling their ability to make a meaningful long-term impact. Other farms forward the high cost and inefficiencies to their customers, resulting in prices that few customers can or are willing to absorb.

To be honest, we’ve considered giving up as well.

But, the fact remains that the demand for poultry continues to outpace that of all other proteins, and I believe consumers deserve better choices. That’s why we’re marching forward!

Moving Forward Through Collaboration

I’m convinced that the path forward must be collaborative, which finally leads me to the solutions and changes we have in the works:

Solution #1: Collaboration for Labor

In addition to raising ethical chicken on our farm next year, we’ve also invested over $170,000 to help three other farms in our area begin raising poultry on their farms. Our investments have helped provide our partners with equipment and startup funds, while each of our partnering farms will provide the much-needed labor to care for the birds. 

We’re locking arms with these fellow family farms to raise birds on pasture during the growing season when temperatures are warm enough for birds to live outside comfortably.

The pictures below show the mobile coops that we purchased for these farms that allow the birds to be moved for fresh pasture daily:

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Solution #2: Collaboration for processing

We’ve seriously contemplated building our own inspected poultry processing facility on our farm for years. While we’re not ruling this out completely, we are opting to support another family farm that has already made this commitment.

The King family (pictured below), located in the neighboring state of Ohio, has operated their own small-scale USDA poultry processing facility for over a decade. My hat goes off to this family for their commitment to serving small-scale poultry farms in our area.

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Their job is not easy, and our goal is to support their efforts by helping them establish better economies of scale over time. Next year alone, we aim to collaborate with Kings to harvest and process 70,000+ of our pasture-raised birds.

Solution 3: Collaboration for winter production

Moving forward, we will continue raising birds outside with daily pasture movements for as long as the weather allows each season. As the cold northern weather approaches, we plan to adjust our production approaches to accommodate raising birds in the winter as well. This is exactly what we do for all the livestock on our farm.

For example, our cattle are relocated to woodlands for wind protection, receiving winter hay. Our pigs are raised with access to warm water and shelter over their heads. Our laying hens move indoors with outdoor access, weather permitting.

Moving forward, our meat birds will also be raised in warm, protective poultry houses during the harsh winters. Starting in January of 2024, we plan to partner with Corwin Heatwole and the farmers at Shenandoah Valley Organics to source ethically raised chicken for our customers during the winter.

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Above: Corwin Heatwole & family at their farm near Harrisonburg, Virginia. 

Corwin and his partnering farms have always raised chickens ethically inside protective houses, giving birds more space and access to pasture than organic standards require. I believe this is exactly how birds should be raised during the winter in cold climates. We know this because this is the same approach we’ve always taken with our laying hens each winter, and it has proven to work well and provide a wonderful product.

I’ve personally traveled and visited with the people and farmers at Shenandoah Valley Organics, and I was encouraged by how open and transparent they operate.

Our winter birds will be raised with the same protocols that we’ve always adhered to when raising our hens in winter houses:

  • Always non-GMO feed
  • Antibiotic, drug-free
  • No added hormones 
  • Access to pasture (as weather allows)

I’ve shared a few snapshots I took while touring their operation earlier in December with my brother Brandt.

These pictures demonstrate the winter housing environment at one of the producer farms we visited.

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This indoor environment above is very similar to how we accommodate our laying hens on our farm in the winter. This is also a Certified Organic production system, but several differences go above and beyond organic requirements: 

  • Even though this particular barn was on the larger side, I was glad to see that the space was divided into smaller subgroups to keep stress and flock competition low.
  •  The birds were also given 10-15% more space beyond what organic certification requires.
  • Opposed to conventional barns, you will also notice generous amounts of natural sunlight that shines in throughout the cold winter days. 
  • As an added perk, the doors open on warm winter days so birds can access the pasture.

While this is a great winter setup, it makes me appreciate it when spring rolls around each year when our animals can enjoy being out on fresh grass.

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Lastly, here we are at the same producer's farm, standing in a field of warm-season Miscanthus grass. This special perennial grass is grown and harvested annually to provide a regenerative source of bedding for the chickens.

While we will continue raising birds on pasture during the summer, I’m thankful to say we will continue to have a consistent source of ethically raised chicken all winter long. As discussed above, this new partnership will be critical to solving our seasonal production challenges.

To learn more about how both our summer and winter chickens are raised, I’ve created an entire page you can view at any time here.

How to Buy Summer Chicken Only

In a perfect world, we'd love only to raise poultry during the warm months, but we understand that consumers need a source of healthy, ethical chicken all year. 

That said, we appreciate our customers who desire to consume food seasonally. If you are willing and able to stock your freezers with a seasonal supply of summer-raised chicken to last your household all year - you can do so in the following ways:

  1. Fill your freezer now
    You can stock up and fill your freezer here with our summer-raised chicken for orders placed from now until Sunday, March 24th (or while supply lasts).
  2. Stock up each summer
    Moving forward, you can stock up on summer chicken during our planned 2024 Summer Chicken Harvest sale. This event will celebrate the debut of our pasture-raised chicken each season and will ensure you are getting the freshest chicken of the year. Please stay tuned to our Sunday farm newsletter to join the wait list for that event.
  3. Purchase Whole Birds
    You may purchase Pasture-Raised Whole Chickens year-round, as we plan to store enough summer-raised whole birds to last all winter. We can do this because very few consumers purchase whole birds these days, so this doesn’t impose a significant freezer space or inventory expense for us.

Moving Forward With Transparency

Because we are committed to transparency and accuracy when presenting our products to consumers, moving forward, we will refer to our chicken as “Ethically-Raised.”

In northern climates, birds can only be “Pasture-Raised” during the growing season, so we feel “Ethically-Raised” better reflects our efforts to continue to raise birds on pasture as long as we can while allowing them to live in warm barns during the winter.

Instead of giving up on raising chicken, we’re doubling down with new investments while keeping an open mind and moving forward with collaboration and transparency.

Solving the complex problems plaguing the poultry industry will require incremental improvements over time. We are committed to taking incremental steps forward and supporting innovations in the pasture-based poultry movement for decades.

We value your continued support and willingness to help us solve the many unrelenting challenges in our farming and food system.

As always, you can contact me and our team with questions anytime.

Thank you for your continued support!

Your farmer,

- Blaine Hitzfield (the 2nd son)

More from the blog

Best Breed of Chicken for Ethical Pastured Meat

When it comes to cooking, few things rival the satisfaction of a perfectly cooked, flavorful chicken dish. However, the secret to culinary success isn’t just in the recipe. It’s in the quality of the chicken itself.  Meat quality and affordability have a lot to do with the chicken breed – and, more crucially – how it was raised.  In this article, I will unpack some of the unknowns about chicken breeds, and how consumer expectations continue to shape the future of poultry.  Our ethical pastured chicken is different than what you’ll find at most supermarkets.  Here’s our approach, starting with selecting the most effective chicken breed for meat. Why Breed Matters for Quality, Flavor & Affordability You’ve probably never thought of chicken breeds in the way you would cattle breeds. While you may have heard of breeds like Wagyu and Angus when it comes to steak, people typically purchase chicken based on whether it’s free-range or pasture-raised.  But that’s not the only thing that matters. The breed of chicken plays a significant role in meat quality and taste.  While you might think ‘heritage’ chicken is the way to go, unfortunately, that’s far from the case due to several factors outside of our farm’s control. Historically chicken breeds were always used for the dual purpose of producing both eggs and meat. However, within the past 100 years, chickens have been bred for the specific purposes of either meat or eggs, not both. This has led to hyper-efficient breeds that have set high standards for the texture, tenderness, and affordability of chicken protein. Heritage birds like the Ancona and Sussex are small, and their flavor profile is unusual. Because of this, heritage breeds can end up with a gamey, woody taste and tough texture–nothing like the chicken you’re used to. Also, because heritage breeds are small and grow slowly, you don’t get a lot of meat for your money - making these breeds out of reach for the budgets of 99% of consumers. The optimum chicken breed–and the one we exclusively raise at Seven Sons and in our farm partner network–is the Cornish Cross Broiler. Originating in England in the 1820s, these hybrid birds meet consumers’ quality and affordability expectations while still allowing us to invest extra care in raising the birds ethically on pasture as the seasons allow. From their impressive double breasts to their ideal muscle-to-fat ratio, Cornish Cross chickens consistently deliver on taste and tenderness. This makes them the gold standard for those seeking delicious, protein-rich meat that's both hearty and flavorful.  Sustainable Practices and Their Impact on Meat Quality However, it’s not just the breed of chicken that matters. How they’re raised plays a crucial role in the quality of the meat as well.  Ethically raised chickens with access to pastures can have better nutritional value and offer a more diverse taste and texture profile.  The reasons for this are three-fold:  Space to roam: Chickens raised in a way that allows them to roam free and express their natural behaviors develop better muscle than poultry raised in tight confinement. Better nutrition: Pasture-raised chickens are more nutritious because they eat a diverse, nutrient-dense diet through foraging on healthy farmland and non-GMO grain. Happy lives: Stress impacts the quality and taste of the meat. That’s why buying ethically sourced meat is so important – not just for the welfare of the animal, but the nutritional value, too.  Meet our Chicken Breeds: The Stars at Seven Sons As we’ve mentioned, the Cornish Cross Broiler is our choice of breed. With its history and lineage, this chicken breed combines the qualities of Cornish Chickens with the larger sizes seen in breeds like the White Rock. The result is a large, lean bird that produces succulent, tender meat. Here’s an overview of the Key characteristics of the Cornish Cross: Appearance: These majestic birds have broad chests and short legs. They also have a muscular build with a large breast area. Males typically weigh between 6-8 pounds, while females weigh between 4-6 pounds. Weather Tolerance: Our Cornish Cross chickens require attentive care as seasons change. During winter, providing ample shelter ensures their warmth and protection. In the heat of summer, they seek shade, ventilation, and cool water to beat the heat. Temperament: These docile, friendly animals rely on breeders for protection against predators like raccoons, foxes, and birds of prey. With secure mobile coops during summer production and access to lush pastures year around (including as weather permits in winter), we prioritize their safety while nurturing their natural behaviors. Raising Practices: From Hatchling to Harvest At Seven Sons, every decision we make, from the poultry breeds we raise to our farming practices, is rooted in our dedication to quality, sustainability, and animal welfare. Choosing Cornish Cross hens from Seven Sons, raised with a focus on regenerative farming practices, means you’re aligning with a farm deeply committed to the nutrients of our food and the ethical treatment of animals. Caring for Our Animals We don’t just raise our chickens for their meat. We do all we can to take the best care of them.  During the balmy summer months, they enjoy the freedom to roam in spacious mobile coops, where they can peck and scratch in fresh, sun-kissed pastures. Each day brings a new rotation to ensure they have access to the best forage and plenty of space to thrive, while protecting the natural ecosystem. When the winter chill descends, we provide our chickens with plenty of warmth and shelter in cozy barns with pasture access as weather permits, ensuring their well-being when the temperature drops. The indoor space is kept warm, and the birds are given 10-20% more space beyond what organic standards require. The winter barns also have windows that let in plenty of natural light, allowing our birds to wake up with the natural sunrise. Caring for Our Land Our commitment to ethical farming doesn't end there. We also embrace regenerative grazing practices that nurture our chickens and the land they roam on. One of the overlooked elements of CAFOs is their impact on the environment. Not only are factory-farmed chickens' lives incredibly stressful, but they don’t get to play their natural role in boosting environmental biodiversity.  Our chickens, on the other hand, play a crucial part in the ecosystem of our sustainable farm, helping to:  Enhance Soil Health: Through natural foraging and scratching, our chickens contribute to soil health, enriching it with organic matter and fostering vital microbial activity. Provide Natural Fertilizer: The nutrient-rich manure produced by our chickens serves as a natural fertilizer, promoting robust plant growth and reducing reliance on synthetic alternatives. Pest Control: Harnessing our chickens' instincts, we utilize them as a pest control mechanism, feasting on insects, larvae, and weed seeds, eliminating the need for chemical pesticides. Caring for Our Customers  At Seven Sons and our partner farms, you're not just making a transaction when you choose to buy from us. You're entering into a relationship built on trust and mutual respect for your well-being. For us, this means holding ourselves to the highest standards when it comes to the meat we produce. We firmly believe that food should never pose a risk to your health. It should be a source of nourishment and vitality. That's why we’re deeply committed to providing quality, natural nutrition to our animals: our chickens are raised on a diet free from GMOs, antibiotics, drugs, and hormones. We believe in the power of natural, wholesome nutrition to support a healthy lifestyle. By choosing our products, you can rest assured that you're making a choice that prioritizes your health and the health of your loved ones. Preparing Chicken: Tips and Tricks Sure, you may have cooked with chicken breasts or thighs–maybe even a whole chicken–but we sell plenty of other incredibly tasty and nutritious cuts of chicken. From drumsticks to wings, backs to giblets, each cut offers its own unique flavor profile and cooking experience. Our ethically raised Cornish Cross Broilers are nutritious and easy to cook. This generously sized bird is protein-packed and nutrient-dense, making for a delicious meal whether grilled, baked, barbecued, or slow-cooked.  How you prepare your chicken will depend on the cooking method and cut you’ve chosen–and there are plenty to choose from! Order Your Ethical Pasture-Raised Chicken Today!  Ready to taste the difference? Order your ethically pasture-raised chicken now and taste the quality and flavor that comes from ethical breeding and sustainable practices.

A Complete Guide to Cuts of Chicken

From aromatic, creamy curries to light summer salads, chicken is a versatile, nutritious meat that works wonderfully as the centerpiece for thousands of dishes across cuisines.  But you’re missing out if you’ve only cooked with chicken breasts or thighs. Plenty of other chicken cuts are packed with flavor–not to mention essential nutrients.  We provide ethically raised pastured chicken cuts of all types because we believe nothing should go to waste. That’s why we’ve curated this list to help you enjoy parts of the chicken you might have overlooked! We’ll discuss these cuts in more detail, explaining the unique flavor profile of each one. For inspiration, we'll also include some of our favorite mouth-watering recipes.  The Importance of Ethical, Pasture-Raised Chicken  Factory-farmed chickens are often raised in crowded conditions that may increase the risk of disease and stress. This non-natural environment also reduces the meat's nutritional benefits and gives it an inferior taste compared to ethically raised chickens.  That’s why we’re committed to delivering healthy, delicious, ethically-raised breeds of chicken to our customers. Pasture-raised chickens are more nutritious because of the diverse, nutrient-dense diet they get through foraging on healthy farmland. In the warm seasons, our chickens roam in mobile coops that rotate daily to fresh, lush pastures. Their interaction with the land naturally fertilizes and helps regenerate the soil. When winter sets in, we transition our chickens to warm barns, protecting them from the harsh elements while maintaining access to pasture as weather permits. In addition, our chicken is free of GMOs, antibiotics, and hormones. Dark vs. White Meat As we explain the different cuts of chicken, you’ll notice that some–like thighs, legs, and drumsticks—are dark meat, while cuts like breast, wings, and back are white meat.  This is due to the difference in color from a protein called myoglobin, which stores oxygen in the chicken’s muscles. Certain muscles–like the legs–need more oxygen and blood flow than other parts, like the breast, leading to the difference in meat color.  While you may have heard that white meat is better for you, this isn’t the case. Although there are differences between the two, these generally come down to taste preference and the recipe you’re making: Protein content: White and dark meat have relatively similar calorie counts, although white meat is slightly lower and has more protein. Nutritional profile: White meat is rich in vitamins B12, B3, and B6, while dark meat has more iron, zinc, and B2.  Taste: The differences in fat between white and brown meat give these cuts different flavors. White meat is more delicate and mild, while brown meat is richer and more succulent. Types of Chicken Cuts Here, we’ll look at 11 of the most popular chicken cuts. Some may surprise you, but we encourage you to be adventurous and try new recipes.  1. Boneless Chicken Breast Boneless chicken breasts are a versatile, household staple across countries. This lean cut of white meat comes from the bird's chest and is packed with essential proteins. With its mild, succulent taste and quick cooking time, chicken breast works in a variety of recipes. One of our favorites is bacon-wrapped honey chicken breast.  Meat type: White Common uses: Salads, curries, sandwiches, stir-fries  How to cook: Oven bake, grill, poach, sauté 2. Chicken Thigh Try cooking with chicken thighs for a meaty, tender lunch or dinner. This succulent, juicy meat comes from the upper part of the chicken’s leg. Depending on your preference, you can buy this dark meat bone-in or boneless and skinless. With their rich, intense flavor, chicken thighs work wonderfully in slow cooker recipes, but you can also marinate them overnight then grill, saute with veggies, or bake them in the oven.  Meat type: Brown  Common uses: Casseroles, sheet pan dinners, barbecues, paellas How to cook: Oven bake, grill, sauté, slow cook 3. Whole Chicken Cooking a whole chicken can provide for several meals throughout the week, making it both practical and economical. With this delicious cut, you get both white and dark meat. You get breasts, thighs, drumsticks, back, and wings–perfect for a variety of taste preferences.  The best way to cook a whole chicken is to roast it. Try our whole roasted garlic chicken recipe.  Meat type: Both  Common uses: Roasts, plus leftovers used for sandwiches, salads, and stir-fries  How to cook: Roast 4. Chicken Drumsticks Another summer barbecue classic is the chicken drumstick. This succulent, dark cut of meat comes on the bone and is from the chicken’s shins. In addition to their savory, juicy flavor, chicken drumsticks are cost-effective and easy to cook.  Whether you grill drumsticks on the barbecue or roast them in the oven, you can get creative with herbs, spices, and marinades, from spicy cajun to sweet honey garlic.  Meat type: Brown  Common uses: Barbecues, sheet pan dinners How to cook: Grill, oven bake 5. Chicken Wings Like drumsticks, chicken wings are also incredibly cheap and versatile. This white cut of meat comes on the bone and is best cooked in the oven or on the grill, doused in your favorite marinade. While chicken wings can be a little messy to eat, they’re delicious: crispy on the outside and soft and tender on the inside. For best results, brine and/or marinate your chicken wings overnight to infuse them with flavor.  Meat type: White  Common uses: Barbecues, sharing platters,  How to cook: Grill, oven bake, deep fry, air fry 6. Chicken Tenderloin Chicken tenderloin often gets confused with chicken breast, but the two differ slightly. While both are cuts of white meat, chicken tenderloin comes from a different part of the bird–a long, thin muscle on the underside of the breastbone.  This moist, tender cut of meat can be used interchangeably with breast in most recipes. As a side note, chicken tenderloins are a great option if you own an air fryer because they’re small and quick to cook.  Meat type: White Common uses: Salads, curries, sandwiches, stir-fries  How to cook: Oven bake, grill, poach, sauté, air fry  7. Chicken Liver A less common cut of chicken is the liver, an organ meat. This cost-effective part of the chicken has a tender, smooth texture and a rich, meaty taste. It’s low in calories and nutrient-dense, with high levels of iron, vitamin A, and vitamin B12. Because of its rich flavor, chicken liver is a wonderful centerpiece in warming stews and casseroles. Saute it with caramelized onions, bacon, and tender mushrooms, served alongside creamy mashed potatoes.  Meat type: Brown  Common uses: Casseroles, pate, stews  How to cook: Fried, oven bake, saute 8. Chicken Heart The heart is another part of the chicken that’s often overlooked, rich in iron and zinc. Chicken hearts are dark in color, with a rich flavor similar to chicken thighs.  Like chicken liver, juicy and tender chicken hearts work wonderfully in stews and casseroles or simply stir-fried with your favorite vegetables. Because this cut is so delicate, it’s quick to cook. You can have dinner on the table in just 15 minutes from start to finish! Meat type: Brown  Common uses: Casseroles, stews, stir-fries How to cook: Grill, oven bake, saute  9. Chicken Neck For a healthy, nutritious lunch or dinner rich in collagen, glucosamine, and calcium, try chicken necks. This dark cut of meat comes on the bone and has a rich, gamey flavor. Like chicken thighs, chicken necks are wonderfully versatile. You can slow-cook them to perfection, saute them with your favorite veggies, or marinate them and grill. Just be careful about overcooking! Since they’re small, chicken necks need much less cooking time than drumsticks and breasts.  Meat type: Brown  Common uses: Casseroles, stews, soups, stir-fries How to cook: Slow cook, oven bake, saute, grill  10. Chicken Back The chicken's back is the spine of the chicken. While you can’t eat chicken backs by themselves, these bones are the perfect base for flavorful, healthy chicken broths and soups due to their high collagen, protein, vitamin, and mineral content.  Try cooking them in a large pot with your favorite vegetables and spices, then slow cooking for a day to infuse your liquid with all the taste and nutrients. Meat type: N/A  Common uses: Casseroles, soups, broth How to cook: Simmer in water  11. Chicken Feet A popular ingredient in Asian cuisine, chicken feet have a delicate, mild taste, making them the perfect base ingredient for a variety of flavorful recipes. A great recipe to try is Dim Sum, which involves deep-frying the chicken feet before coating them in a glossy, decadent garlic, ginger, and soy sauce. What I find as the best use for chicken feet in our house is to add more richness and consistency to our homemade chicken broth. Chicken feet are high in gelatin, which helps add thickness to your broths. Meat type: Dark Common uses: Casseroles, stir-fries, appetizers, broth How to cook: Saute, boil, braise, deep fry, simmer  Order Your Ethical Pasture-Raised Chicken Today!  Now that you know about these 11 cuts of chicken, you can elevate your meals! We hope this guide has inspired you to experiment with different parts of chicken. Ready to cook? Order your ethical pasture-raised chicken now.

3 Easy Recipes to Make with Chicken Broth

From nourishing, hearty soups to show-stopping main dishes, chicken broth is an integral ingredient that deserves a place among your kitchen cupboard essentials. It certainly is for this farmer’s wife. Chicken broth is a nutrient-rich liquid made by simmering chicken bones, connective tissue, vegetables, and herbs in water for around 24 hours. This creates a rich, flavourful mixture packed with collagen, vitamins, and antioxidants.  Chicken broth is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals and a great way to minimize waste and be more environmentally conscious in the kitchen.  From our regenerative grazing practices to offering a variety of cuts from our ethical pasture-raised chicken to our customers, we believe in sustainable farming that supports animals, the environment, and your well-being. So, whether you make your own chicken broth using leftover chicken frames or buy Seven Son’s chicken broth, here’s a look at how to use this flavorful, nutritious ingredient in your own cooking. Chicken Broth vs. Chicken Stock: What's the Difference? Before we discuss the recipes, let’s clarify a common source of confusion: the difference between chicken broth and chicken stock.  While you can make both liquids by simmering chicken bones, leftovers, vegetables, and herbs, bone broth is superior in nutritional value and flavor.  That’s because chicken bone broth cooks for around 24 hours, while chicken stock cooks for only one or two. The longer simmering time deeply infuses the broth with the chicken bones’ exceptional nutritional properties. Collagen, electrolytes, minerals, and vitamins–give it a rich, savory flavor.  In addition, the quality and quantity of the ingredients that go into making bone broth are unmatched. To make it, you need to use specific parts of the chicken carcass that contain connective tissue, allowing them to slowly cook to release their nutritional value.  With chicken broth, on the other hand, you’ll use any leftover chicken parts and bones, letting them simmer for a couple of hours to make a tasty liquid–but with a lower amount of protein and nutrients. While both ingredients can add a meaty flavor to your cooking, chicken bone broth undoubtedly has a richer taste and more health benefits.  The Shelf Life of Chicken Broth: Maximizing Freshness If you’re ready to use chicken broth in your recipes, you’ll be pleased to know that once opened, this ingredient has a shelf life of three to four days. This means you can use it in countless recipes over the week.  Plus, if you have leftover broth, you can always freeze it in batches in Ziploc bags or ice cube trays. Once frozen, we recommend using the broth within three to four months.  Why Choose Broth Over Water in Cooking? The beauty of bone broth is its versatility. If a savory recipe requires water, swap the same amount of bone broth for a richer, umami-laced flavor that will elevate your dishes.  The fact that bone broth is highly nourishing helps. It’s packed with healthy nutrients like proline, glycine, collagen, calcium, and more. Bone broth has a range of health benefits, including:  Immune system boost: Research shows that the amino acids in chicken broth reduce inflammation and boost immune system function, helping to combat common ailments like asthma, heart disease, and arthritis. Heals the gut: Bone broth is easy for our bodies to digest and soothe the gut. It can even positively change the gut microbiome and ease the symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  Mood-busting: Bone broth is rich in calcium and glycine, both of which are crucial to healthy brain function, mood regulation, and high-quality sleep. Not to mention the aroma and soothing warmth that is so comforting on cold winter days. Healthy weight support: Packed full of protein and low in calories, bone broth helps to regulate the appetite by reducing hunger hormones like ghrelin and increasing satiety hormones.  Recipe Inspirations: Making the Most of Chicken Broth By now, you’re probably ready to put the wonders of bone broth to good use in your kitchen.  Here are some of our go-to recipes for what you can make with chicken broth. Soups and Stews: Heartwarming Classics A sure-to-please dish is chicken and vegetable stew. It’s rich in nutrients, great for a cozy night in, and simple to make! All you need to do is gather the ingredients: 1.5 Pounds chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil 1 Large onion, diced 2 Cloves garlic, minced 2 Large carrots, sliced 3 Celery stalks, sliced 6 Cups chicken broth 1 Bay leaf 1 tsp dried thyme Salt and pepper to taste Fresh parsley for garnish (optional) And how to make this recipe: Cut the chicken into one-inch cubes, dice the onion, carrots, and celery, and mince the garlic. Heat the olive oil in a large pot, then saute the chicken and vegetables over medium heat. Add the chicken and stir until it starts to brown (roughly 5 minutes). Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside. Using the same pot, add in the onions and saute until softened. Add in the garlic and saute for a minute or two, then toss in your vegetables, making sure to stir so they don’t burn. Now it’s time for the chicken broth and spices! Add in the broth, the bay leaf, dried thyme (and any other favorite seasonings you have), and mix it. Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat. Grab the chicken you put aside, put it back in the pot, and simmer on low for about half an hour, making sure the chicken is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper, add any garnish of your choice, and serve! Rice and Grains: A Flavorful Foundation Chicken broth infuses rice and other grains with a mouth-watering, savory depth. A great dish is a Mexican chicken quinoa skillet, loaded with veggies and ready in just 25 minutes.  To make this recipe, you’ll need: 1 Pound chicken breast, cut into cubes 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil 1 Small onion, diced 1 Bell pepper, diced 2 Cloves garlic, minced 1 Cup quinoa 2 Cups chicken broth 1 Can black beans, rinsed and drained 1 Can diced tomatoes (15 oz) 1 Cup corn, frozen or canned 1 tsp chili powder (or more if you like some kick!) ½ tsp cumin ½ tsp paprika Salt and pepper to taste Fresh cilantro And the steps to making this recipe:  Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, dice the onion and bell pepper, mince the garlic, and rinse the quinoa. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned, about 6-8 minutes. Remove it from the pan and set aside. Using the same skillet, saute the onion until soft, then add the garlic and bell pepper, sauteing for about 3 minutes. Now, add the chicken broth, quinoa, black beans, tomatoes, corn, and spices. Mix well and slowly bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the quinoa is light and fluffy and the broth has been absorbed - about 25 minutes. Add the chicken to the skillet to warm, mixing all the ingredients. Check that the chicken is cooked through, adding salt and pepper to taste. Garnish and serve! Sauces and Gravies: Elevating Everyday Meals Chicken bone broth elevates many of the best comfort recipes. For example, try this quick and easy chicken broth gravy to turn mashed potatoes into a crowd-pleasing side or ensure there’s no biscuit left after dinner. To make this recipe, all you need is: 2 Cups chicken broth 2 TBSP butter 2 TBSP all-purpose flour ½ tsp garlic powder (optional) Salt and pepper to taste Fresh herbs for garnish For this quick and easy gravy, all you need to do is: Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until it forms a roux. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the roux turns golden. Pour in the chicken broth slowly while whisking. Make sure there are no lumps. Continue whisking while bringing the mix to a slow boil. Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring every minute or so. Once it reaches your desired thickness, add the salt, pepper, or garlic powder to taste.  Serve hot on your dish of choice. Tip: If the gravy gets too thick while cooking, add more chicken broth to thin it. The Healing Elixir: Sipping on Chicken Broth While bone broth enhances the flavor and health benefits of many meals, you don’t always have to cook with it! One of our favorite ways to consume chicken broth is to warm it up on the stove and drink it–especially if we feel under the weather.  The number of powerful antioxidants in chicken broth, along with its herby, savory flavor, also makes this drink a great post-lunch pick-me-up or pre-dinner snack. However, not all chicken bone broth is created equal. If you’re going to drink it regularly, make sure you either make your own or buy from a company that doesn’t use artificial ingredients or lots of added sodium, which can undermine its health benefits. At Seven Sons, we’re proud to say that our ethical, pasture-raised chicken breeds are 100% free from growth promotants, antibiotics, and GMOs–with no artificial ingredients or MSG. Ready to taste the difference? Order Seven Sons’ chicken broth or make your own using our bone broth kit today! As always, we love to see your recipe creations–so let us know what you’ve made in the comments.