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2006.01.11

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clare eats

I don't know about north america but there can be huge differences in chicken from different suppliers in Australia.

BTW I love your blog!

Christina

Hi there! Don't think I've commented before but I really enjoy reading your blog. :-)

Chicken in UK supermarkets seems to have the same problems as American chicken and Salmonella is sadly a big problem. Before I found a real butcher I switched to organic because of that. I had also noted that problem with water which I agree with you is definitely fraudulent!

Carlyn

Amy;
Thanks for the info on chicken. I also find the US chicken to be bland and without much taste. I always assumed it was because they don't get to move much , being crammed together with thousands of other chickens. Although, free range chickens here are not that tasty either. hmmmmmm???

megan

Love your blog, been reading for a while...

Have to concur about tastier chicken in Japan. I visited a few years ago from the US and couldn't believe how good the chicken was! It actually tastes like...chicken! I'd never experienced that before or since.

suzy

I totally agree, both with the taste and not-shrinking. The best chicken I ate in the UK was an organic one that I bought by mistake... maybe farming practices are less intensive here and a bit closer to organic? I never thought I'd eat chicken sashimi, but it's not bad at all!

Kat

Someone once told me that in Japan they feed their chickens hormones so that they produce more eggs. These chickens are then killed and fed to the public and there have been increasing facial changes in males looking more like females...anyway, that's what I heard...I noticed that chicken doesn't shrink too much here too, but would never eat a raw one or a raw egg.

obachan

Amy, this post reminded me of something I noticed when I cooked chicken in the U.S. I made teriyaki chicken several times there when I was asked to cook something Japanese, because it was the safest choice almost anywhere. Then I had a real hard time because no matter how long I tried, the chicken pieces (dark meat) were not coated with teriyaki sauce. At that time I thought it was because I didn’t use mirin there, but back in Japan I tried teriyaki with dark meat without mirin and still it worked. So maybe it was the chicken that was different??

It’s interesting that the chicken here seems to taste differently, though most of them are said to be originally from the same breeding company in the U.S. BTW, “it is said” that in Japan feeding livestock with growth-hormone is not allowed (but it does not mean no one is doing that, I guess.) I heard it’s allowed in the U.S. About Salmonella, I wonder if it’s that we don’t have that problem here or we just don’t know/care about it.

Amy

Clare eats,
Does that mean Australia still has several different suppliers? If so, that's great, because in North America that is no longer the case- a few huge suppliers dominate the market, offering very little choice to consumers.

Christina,
Sad to hear it's the same story in the UK, but good for you for finding a good butcher.

Carlyn,
I'm not sure how movement would affect the flavour or texture. Think about veal- so soft and delicious, and it comes from calves who are virtually unable to move! I wonder if it's the same with chickens? Still, I'd rather eat a slightly tough bird that had a chance to move around than a soft tender one that spent its life stuffed in a tiny cage wtih a dozen other chickens.

Megan,
Glad you liked the chicken here! It was hard for me to notice how good it was at first, because the food was so different here. I just assumed it was the preparation that made it so good. It wasn't until I started cooking that I noticed, and only after being blown away by the seafood, beef and pork.

Suzy,
I've always suspected that farming practices in Japan are a bit more humane and less factory-like. No evidence to base that on, but I don't think the meat, eggs, and dairy would be so tasty and safe if the conditions were the same as in North America. I would love to find out for sure about this some day.
I like chicken sashimi too, especially tataki.

Kat,
Hormones, antibiotics and other drugs are given to virtually all factory-farmed animals in North America. It's standard practice, especially for laying hens and dairy cows. As Obachan pointed out, hormones are banned in Japan (but there have been enough scandals within the farming industry in recent years that I'm not sure if I believe that completely).
Anyway, there is a lot of scary stuff going on in North American (and maybe UK?) farms, scary enough that I went vegetarian for a while in high school. Accidental Hedonist, the blog I linked to in this post, often writes about the agricultural industry. Very interesting stuff.

Obachan,
That's weird about the teriyaki chicken. Maybe water-packed chicken is to watery to hold a coating? It's not something I've tried to cook in Canada, but it's a very popular restaurant item so there must be some solution.
I didn't know that most Japanese chickens were from US stock. This must have been a long time ago, before US farmers started breeding more profitalbe chickens, with oversized breasts and less dark meat.

kat

you are probably right about the US and UK. There's a book I'm reading now called "My year of meats" by Ruth Ozeki. It's kind of satirical, but takes an interesting look at the meat exporting industry between the US and Japan.

Amy

Oh, I loved that book! Really really interesting. I'm looking forward to reading Ozeki's latest, All Over Creation.

Magictofu

I was at the origin of the discussion on the Accidental Hedonist. It was a long time ago and since then I was able to do some research.

1) Hormones are not administered to chicken in Canada since 1973 when a new law on that issue took effect.

2) The chicken we now eat are much younger then the chicken of yesteryears. They have been breeded to gain weight fast, especially white meat.

3) According to a person from the local farmer's association I talked to, there seem to be a market for tender, low-fat and 'delicate' (bland?) chicken meat in North America. And producers simply fill the market with such products.

4) There are a few alternatives for better tasting chicken: free-range and organic chicken for instance but also older specimens. Some specialized grocery stores (Chinese grocery stores for example) in major cities offer slightly more variety in terms of breed and age.

5) North American chicken is now sold all over the world, especially dark meat and processed meat. It is distributed in China and Japan but are mostly offered in the cheaper groceries of Japan and in the growing Mega-Marts of China.

When I visited China, all meat tasted very different from the meat I used to eat in Canada and in all the other parts of the world I visited. Beef is not primarily grown for its meat so it is both tough and dry no matter how you cook it. Pork is often fed garbage but the animals are allowed to walk around producing a tough and very strong tasting meat. I did not like either meats. As a matter of fact, I think Chinese food is not about meat anyway. The chicken I tried however was unlike anything I expected. It was tougher for sure but the taste... the taste!!!! I'm still salivating just thinking about it. My experience in Japan was much shorter but I was able to try very good beef and amazing seafood. I am glad to see that they too have excellent chicken. And the more I know the Japanese food and agricultural policies the more I think there is a lot to learn from it... only problem, it is extremely subsidized.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the issue... It feels better to see I am not the only one concerned by all of this.

clare eats

Yep there are different suppliers, and my current favourite are supplied direct from a farm in victoria where they are free range but supplimented with corn. Fantastic!

clare eats

Sorry meant to type this in the last comment..

I have also noticed that the difference between a chicken whose skin has been wetted and one that is dry is immense, with the dry bird completly outclassing the wetbird.

Amy

Magictofu,
Thanks for stopping by and adding to the discussion. I didn't know hormones aren't given to Canadian chickens- I wonder if that goes for both meat chickens and laying chickens?
You're right about the subsidies, but it seems hard to avoid, especially with so many cheap imports from countries who also subsidize their agriculture industries.

Clare eats,
I think I never tried air-chilled chicken in Canada, so I never knew what I was missing. You're lucky to be able to find such good chicken. Here in Japan there seems to be a good variety, often labeled with the region or even breed. I'm very glad that mega agribusinesses have not taken over the industry.

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