Tastes like chicken, but what kind?

Can you taste the difference between local free-range, farm-raised chickens and factory-raised birds from the supermarket?

Let’s find out. On October 11, CLUCK the Chicken Store will host a small-plate taste test to compare three kinds of meat chickens: Mass produced like you buy at the supermarket, locally raised free-range Rock-Cornish cross chickens, and locally raised free-range Freedom Rangers. You could be part of the exclusive group checking out the differences.

For those not familiar with chicken breeds, most supermarket chicken is the extremely fast-developing Rock-Cornish cross which are produced by the billions in factory farms.

For starters, we’ll compare the factory-raised supermarket chicken with pasture-raised or free range birds of the same breed. We’ll also taste the difference between Rock-Cornish cross chickens and free-range Freedom Rangers, which are bred to forage, and generally live a more old-fashioned chicken life. They grow slower and move around more than the sedentary Cornish cross. Both the free-range Cornish crosses and the Freedom Rangers have been raised by local farmers who use agricultural methods that allow their birds a life that would be familiar to our grandparents. These birds see the sunshine, scratch in the grass, dust bathe, catch bugs and live in small flocks with plenty of space.

The roast chickens will be prepared Nate Pranke, sous chef at Cow & Quince, the highly acclaimed farm-to-table restaurant in New Glarus. Participants will sample both white and dark meat from each of the three types of chicken, along with home-made coleslaw and bread. Chef Nate, whose culinary method is guided by a philosophy that equates good food with good health, will talk about the differences he sees in the three types of birds, and how home cooks can prepare them.

This event is sponsored by Nutrena Feeds and is the brainchild of Twain Lockhart, Nutrena’s poultry specialist. This is the first time it has been done, so we can’t predict the results. But we are interested in the impact that a sustainable method of raising meat birds has on the quality of their lives, as well as the quality of what we put on our table. We hope you will join us from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11, at CLUCK for what is likely to be an informative, delicious afternoon. The event is free but it will be limited to 60 participants, so you must register in advance. Email susan@cluckthechickenstore.com to sign up.