Which chicken tastes the best? A £32 chicken from a posh butcher or a standard one from your local supermarket?
What is the maximum price you’d pay for a chicken at the butcher’s?
Would you find £32 for a 4kg chicken a little steep?
Believe it or not, that’s how much one butcher in London is charging for its chickens.
'Nice things are more expensive,' says Richard Douglas of South London butchers, M Moen and Sons. 'It's a really, really special chicken'.
Well, he would say that, wouldn't he?
The pricey birds - hand-reared by husband and wife farmer team Phil and Jan Truin, and dubbed ‘the Rolls Royce of chickens’ - haven't exactly been welcomed with unanimous applause.
Uncommonly slaughtered at fourteen - sixteen weeks, these chickens live double the time of their ordinary counterparts, and are left to grow to a gargantuan 4 kg. Despite being a bog-standard white chicken breed, these birds are fed superior and quality grain to become the expansive size they subsequently reach.
Tastier or just more expensive?
At random I picked a selection of whole chickens - cooked them each at 160C for an hour and three-quarters, plainly seasoning them with salt and pepper - and tried each one.
Obviously with so few samples, it’s not a hugely scientific test, but I think the results are interesting nonetheless. If you agree, it is one that you could easily do the same yourself at home (let us know how you get on if you do).
Here are my results:
The Truin Free-Range Chicken
(M Moen and Sons, South London)
Price: £7.95 per kg
Bred: In leafy Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, these paddock chickens are hand-fed a diet of 'quality feed' and slaughtered on site after fourteen weeks of life.
Taste: This chicken is unexpectedly vast and proportioned just like a Christmas turkey. Despite its impressive size, the meat is juicy throughout and carries an ever-so-slight sweet flavour. Perfect for a large dinner party - there's enough meat on the bone for multiple left-over rounds.
My rating: 7/10
Corn-fed Organic Butchers' Chicken
(H.G Walter, London, W14)
Price: £7.95 per kg
Bred: These golden-hued chickens are organically bred on a maize-only diet (which provides their yellow look). Live in barns, but have space to roam. Situated in the Black Mountain region of Wales.
Taste: The meat is moist and tender, succulent and gamey all at the same time. A great spread of strong flavour throughout. Needs no sauce - or even vegetables - to complement the feast.
My rating: 9/10
Budget Whole Chicken
Price: £3.95 per kg
Bred: Fed a vegetarian diet, these chickens are barn-kept, but have room to roam.
Taste: The bird carried a delicious aroma, but turned out to be really rather disappointing. Most likely to be a victim of wet-plucking (where water jets have been used to remove the bird's feathers), for the chicken appeared to have fallen to half its size after cooking. Dry breast and overall a tasteless experience.
Free Range, Wiltshire Chicken
Price: £5.49 per kg
Bred: The chickens are a slow-maturing breed and are reared naturally to ensure meat of tender and juicy taste. Allowed to roam freely in private open fields on East Clyffe Farm, Wiltshire, these birds are free to forage at will.
Taste: This was a plump and densely-flavoured chicken. The thighs were gamey and and the breast chewy and sweet. A good, all-round chicken.
Willow Farm Whole Chicken
Price: £3.37 per kg
Bred: Willow Farm chickens perch on straw bales that make up the spacious barns in which they are kept. Large windows provide the animals with natural light. They are fed a vegetarian diet.
Taste: This meat excelled only after a heavy dousing of gravy; the bird was all bone and no flavour once removed from the oven. The sort of chicken you'd expect to find in shreds, smothered by mayonnaise, in a club sandwich.
Organic Whole Chicken
Price: £6.49 per kg
Bred: Free to roam in organic pastures and are fed a cereal-based diet.
Taste: The brown meat is strangely white, but the flavour is wholesome throughout the chicken. Tender and juicy; not at all disappointing. An average bird.
Which tasted the best?
The results show that one of the most expensive birds – from local butcher H.G Walter in leafy West London – did taste the best. It was cheaper than the Truin £32 chicken overall, as it was a smaller bird, but price per kg is exactly the same. (Incidentally, if you want to try one for yourself, the firm does home deliveries in London.)
Value for money
Clearly, opting for cheaper chicken won’t necessarily ensure you get value for money. Sure, the strain on your purse strings may be a little lighter, but the saving of £5 or £6 you make in selecting a ‘budget’ range could indeed leave you with a rather tasteless and watery bird.
That said, are you happy to dish out £32 on a chicken for a Sunday Roast? Sure, it's delicious, tasty and enough to go around a party of four three times... but is it a price too far?
Let me know what you think!
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