Known all over Europe, chickens from the Bresse area of France are considered the finest, most delicious chickens. I have eaten them many times. In fact, when I go to France, anytime the menu says Poulet de Bresse, I order it hands down, not looking at the other offerings. In Italy, I had it on our last night in Como. They flew them in fresh every other day to our hotel. Why would anyone go to all that trouble for chicken? Bresse chickens are held to the highest standards of poultry farming. For the vast majority of their lives, they run around and eat all the cool things chickens love, building strong muscles and happy hearts. The soil of Bresse is rich in lime, so the meat has a delicate flavor. But for the last few weeks of these contented fowl's lives, they are confined (but not crammed inhumanely like the industrial chicken farms here) and feed grain soaked in buttermilk. La de da! This formula makes the chickens develop a delicious, thin layer of fat over their muscles that is not bigger in some spots than others. Thus, it makes the meat very, very tender over their entire body. Bresse chickens are raised naturally, without hormones, so they are a normal size, not some Terminator chickens that taste like wood.
Pointing out les petite bleu pieds
After they are harvested, by French law, they must be sold with the heads and feet intact, so you can actually see what you are getting. I asked why to one of the chefs and he looked at me increduosly"How could you be sure it is Bresse if n'est pas regardez-vouz ze whole poulet?" Last December, when I went to the ginormousRungis Market outside of Paris (I wrote about it on my blog), I saw hundreds of chickens in boxes with their heads and feet still on, ready for holiday eating. It was quite a crazy sight!
The French keep the bloodlines pure, never cross breeding. A Bresse Chicken is identified by its bright red comb, its pure white feathers, and its long blue legs and feet. There are some black Bresse chickens, although they are not raised as often, and I have never seen any.
I have been enamored with these delicious chickens for years and have been seeking a partner with whom I could raise them because I personally cannot have livestock on our property. I have been asking different farmers and although interested, many seemed stymied by the complicated breeding procedures. Most have never heard of this breed. Many of you know Veydra van de Leur and the sweet farm she is adding to all the time. Lambs, goats, horses,chickens, bees, and now-- Bresse Chickens with yours truly! I am so EXCITED to be a partner with her. When I called her to talk about the idea, she was in with both feet!
In about a year and a half, American Bresse will be the only chicken served at la Dolce Vita, except in the chicken pot pies. Ours must called American Bresse because ONLY the chickens raised in the region of Bresse don't have to have a qualifier by their name. (You know the whole French snootiness with Champagne. It is like this with these chickens.) It will take a year and a half for the chickens we buy to mature, lay and hatch eggs, then for those chickens to grow up to also lay and hatch eggs before we can cut into the population. Hopefully, we will be able to purchase the scarce "teenage" chickens (called poulets) to speed up the process. Because we all know how easily teenagers get pregnant......
Thank you, Vedyra, for saying yes to this project. I look forward to our endeavor!
P.S. These are stock photos to illustrate my plan, as our chickens have not yet arrived.