Chicken, but not as you know it
Cockerels and Sommerlad heritage chickens - the way chicken used to taste!
Once upon a time, our food landscape was full of variety and diversity. But over the last 60 years, the entire Australian meat chicken industry has been compressed into a few expressions of a single breed - a docile white broiler with a huge breast, soft bones and a phenomenal growth rate that gets them from chick to market in about five weeks. Compare that to the 16 plus weeks that pasture-raised, heritage breeds take to reach market size and you can see why the white broiler has dominated the market so quickly.
But there's always a price when you cut corners to speed things up. They might grow incredibly fast, but intensively-raised, conventional white broiler chicken meat is invariably bland and very soft. A limited life results in a limited product.
(The birds are better when they're grown for longer on pasture but you're still dealing with the same genetics. Read Chapter Three of our book, The Ethical Omnivore for more on this topic.)
The thing is, you don't know what you're missing until you've compared it to something else. Which is one of the reasons why the Llandilo roosters grown by R & R Roosters and the Sommerlad Heritage chickens bred and grown by Grassland Poultry are so sensationally important and wonderful!
First-timers light up like New Years Eve and pronounce in astonishment, 'But it's so delicious!' The flavours are long and pronounced, the texture is toothsome and satisfying, the skin is thick and crisps beautifully, the legs are long and muscular and the bones are super-strong and make the best sauces and broth.
Cooking and eating these birds is a revelation and a far cry from the chickens most of us are used to. And, yes, you will have to chew. But you know how to do that and the rewards are worth it.
Of course, you can ruin anything if you cook it really badly, but when you're starting with such good meat, it's hard to really blow it. Fortunately, if you can't be bothered cooking for yourself, head to Fred's for the wood-oven roasted Sommerlad or book in at 10 William Street and let Frank cook your cockerel for you. Trust me, he does a brilliant job.
Photo: 10 William Street cockerel dish by Frank Guest, photographed by Katie Ridgeway.