Food Finds - White Oak Pastures' chickens
The free-range chickens are raised on the largest certified organic farm in Georgia.
Will Harris, of White Oak Pastures, is the kind of farmer you support whenever you get the chance. Harris, the epitome of a sturdy Southern man who always seems to have a huge smile on his face, puts great care into everything he sells. While Harris is better known for his grass-fed beef - which you can buy at Publix or Whole Foods - his newest product may be his best yet. Harris recently started selling chickens. Yet, these chickens are nothing like the sad juiced-up supermarket birds you're accustomed to. Harris says industrial birds producers "have bred all of the chicken out of these chickens." The free-range chickens are raised on the largest certified organic farm in Georgia.
The chickens roam the pasture all day, eat lots of bugs and worms, a lot of grass and nosh on scratch feed that doesn't have any hormones or antibiotics. They are heritage-breed Crosses Harris got from S&G Poultry in Alabama, which is incredibly secretive about the lineage of the birds. "Kind of like Colonel Sanders' KFC secret blend of herbs and spices," says Harris. White Oak has tried out many different varieties of the Crosses and come to the conclusion that the "Red Ranger" is best.
Like his beef, Harris processes the birds on site, and White Oak is petitioning the USDA to give them a certificate of inspection. If they get it, the farm will be the only federally inspected plant available for farmers to use in Georgia, Florida and Alabama.
All warm and fuzzies aside, the chicken just plain tastes good. When roasted on high heat, the skin easily crisps up for that quintessential crackle. Little more than crunchy kosher salt and pepper is needed to boost the beautiful intense chicken flavor. The birds may appear of average size, but they yield so much juicy meat that one bird will easily feed a family of four. Don't throw away those bones! The leftovers make an extremely satisfying chicken stock that gets better by the day.
You can find White Oak Pastures' chickens at Star Provisions (1198 Howell Mill Road, 404-365-0410, www.starprovisions.com) on a first come, first serve basis (we suggest you call ahead). You can also order them directly from the farm's website, www.whiteoakpastures.com.