As a lover of fine cuisine, I have always been intrigued by the reputation of the Bresse chicken, known for its exceptional flavor and quality. Originating from eastern France, this breed has been prized for over 500 years and is considered a national treasure in its homeland.
What’s So Special About Bresse Chickens? The Bresse chicken’s unique genetics and specialized breeding methods result in meat with distinctive fat, meat, and growth patterns, as well as a unique bone-to-meat ratio not found in traditional chicken breeds. Bresse chickens metabolize food differently from other chicken breeds. Plus, their bones are thin and delicate, which adds to their unique characteristics.
This is due to their specialized breeding. Bresse Chickens are raised in a specific manner that, when combined with their unique genetics, produces a distinct flavor not found in other chicken breeds.
Join me on a journey to explore the history, characteristics, and culinary significance of the Bresse chicken.
American Bresse Chicken
Any Bresse Chicken that has been exported outside of the Bresse, France area is called by the name of it’s new location. In the USA, Bresse Chickens are called American Bresse.
American Bresse Chickens are still a specialty breed of chicken in the USA. Only a handful of hatcheries sell authentic Bresse descendants in the United States. But, because of the difficulty in getting actual Bresse chickens out of France, many of the American Bresse genetic lines have been diluted. Bresse is also not a recognized breed by the American Poultry Association, so breeding and uniform standards aren’t regulated.
Bresse, such as American Bresse, or Australian Bresse, and other locally-defined names of this bird have started gaining popularity in upscale restaurants.
Although the Bresse were nearly extinct a couple of generations ago, their protection under French law and elite status in French Restaurants has assured their future.
American Bresse Chickens For Sale
Obtaining purebred Bresse descendants in the United States can be challenging. Currently, American Bresse includes chickens with any portion of Bresse ancestry. That’s because, historically, exporting Bresse chickens from France was illegal.
However, with the advent of the European Union, France was required to export Bresse to other European countries. As many of those countries did not have exportation laws, Bresse chickens were subsequently exported to the USA.
Due to the high demand and limited availability of Bresse chickens, some US hatcheries have bred Bresse chickens with other American chicken breeds. This breeding practice can result in varying levels of quality among the Bresse chickens sold in the USA.
If you plan to purchase American Bresse Chickens, it is crucial to find out where the chicks come from and obtain as much genetic history as possible. The more you raise Bresse chickens, the more familiar you will become with their standard traits.
Bresse Chicken Meat: Best Tasting Chicken in The World
Breese chickens are considered by the French to be the tastiest chicken in the world, but take very specialized care to get the exact taste of the “Bresse.” Additionally, a “true” Bresse has to be raised and butchered in the Breese area of France.
Breese heritage descendants are catching on as a specialty dish outside of France. In the USA, American Bresse Chickens are gaining a reputation as a quality chicken and command a higher premium as Breese descendant meat than other breeds of chicken.
Bresse chickens are a heritage breed so the chickens are healthy, do well free-ranging, and have tender flesh. But, Breese chickens take a special diet and timeline, which may be too much hassle for the homesteader.
It also takes greater effort to educate consumers about Bresse meat and the care that goes into their special taste.
What is the Best Feed for Bresse Chickens?
If you want to raise Bresse chickens and achieve the desired Bresse-like finished meat, specific steps should be taken.
Firstly, Bresse chickens require a diet consisting of grains and corn, with corn making up slightly more than two-thirds of the mix and wheat grain comprising the remaining one-third. Additionally, 7% of skim milk should be added to the mix.
To encourage Bresse chickens to forage for additional food, they should be provided with less grain than they actually need to eat. Free-ranging is also essential for Bresse chickens, with a minimum of 10 meters of space required per bird over a period of 35 days. Different types of birds require varying free-ranging periods and are supplemented with milk.
After the free-ranging period, Bresse chickens are then put into dark sheds where they are allowed to “veg out” and fatten up. By following these steps, you can raise Bresse chickens that meet the specific standards and qualities of the breed.
At What Age do You Butcher A Bresse Chicken?
Bresse chickens are butchered at 4 months old but can be processed at 5 months as well. This gives the chicks enough time to fully develop their fat and meat marbling. Some homesteaders, like my friend Tina, free-range them and may wait as much as 6 months before processing. That’s because grass-fed chickens take longer to mature.
Male roosters of the breed typically reach a weight of 6-7.5 lbs (3kgs), while female hens usually grow to around 5.5 lbs (2.5kgs). However, the dark varieties tend to be slightly lighter, averaging about 1 lb less.
What Does Bresse Chicken Taste Like?
As I’ve talked to friends that have raised Bresse chickens or eaten them in France, the usual consensus is that Bresse chicken is a moister, greasier chicken than traditional restaurant chicken sold in the U.S.A. This is a huge benefit for those like me, whose only complaint with chicken is the often dry breast that chickens produce.
Part of the unique flavor of Bresse chickens comes from its heritage. It has a long history of breeding that can’t be replicated with modern crosses. The skin is thin and the bones light.
It metabolizes fat differently than other chickens.
Taste also comes from the unique way they are raised. They must be raised with organic food. There is a schedule of food that starts with cereal feeding, followed by a low protein free-range diet. Finally, they are finished in a darkened fattening shed and fed milk and maize. This creates a marbled look in their meat.
French Bresse Chicken Origin
The “Poulet de Bresse,” as it is known in France, gained its fame when Henry IV had an accident with his carriage and stopped in the village of Bresse, where he first tasted this delicate chicken. He was so impressed that he demanded the bird be included in his courtly menu, thus beginning its journey to culinary fame.
Bresse chickens are widely considered to be the best-tasting meat chicken in the world, with a single bird costing hundreds of dollars in Parisian restaurants. However, finding Bresse in restaurants outside of France can be challenging. These chickens were first bred 500 years ago in eastern France and were thought to be extinct for a brief period after World War II.
In France, the Bresse chicken is a national treasure, and it must be raised in a specific way using food grown in the Bresse region to qualify as a true Bresse chicken. Therefore, even if a chicken has genetics from a Bresse French chicken, it is no longer a Bresse once it is moved away from France. Instead, American-raised “Bresse” chickens are called American Bresse to distinguish them from their authentic cousins. This naming convention also applies to other countries raising “Bresse” descendants.
American Bresse Chicken Eggs
Do Bresse Chicken Lay eggs? Bresse chickens are renowned for their exceptional egg-laying abilities, as they consistently produce eggs almost every day of the week, particularly when provided with high-quality layer feed. These chickens lay medium-sized eggs with a beautiful golden-cream hue.
If you are raising American Bresse chickens as a dual-purpose bird- you’ll want to feed the meat birds differently than your laying hens so as to maximize production and meat flavor.
Are Bresse Chickens Good Egg Layers? Breese hens are heavy and consistent egg layers. Bresse chickens can lay up to 250 eggs a year when the hens are fed a layer feed, but when they are fed the traditional feed used for the Bresse meat, birds usually yield about 160-180 medium eggs. Bresse hens will lay an average of 4-5 eggs a week with the right diet.
At what age do Bresse Chickens lay eggs?
American Bresse chickens may start laying eggs as early as 4 months. Most hatcheries list that as the age hens start laying eggs. But, depending on several factors, including feed, daylight hours, and weather, hens may not start laying until closer to 5 or 5 ½ months old. Even so, they are strong egg layers once they start laying eggs!
Bresse Chicken Color (Blue, White, Black)
What color do Bresse Chickens Come in? Bresse chickens are typically recognized by their distinctive blue legs, white feathers, and red comb and wattles. However, they can also come in a range of other colors, including black, gray, and blue. The color variations are not as common as the white variety.
But they are still considered Bresse chickens if they meet other breed standards such as their distinctive blue legs.
The white variety looks a lot like a French flag. It has a large red comb and bright white feathers. It also has steel blue legs. The tail juts out at a 45-degree angle and the neck is upright. The comb has 5+ points.
Because “Bresse” chickens can only be raised in France, they are not admitted to the American Poultry Society. But, they are considered a French Heritage chicken.
Bresse Chicken FAQs
What is the highest quality chicken in the world? The French considers the Bresse chicken the best quality chicken in the world, but the Creveceour is the most expensive chicken in the world and is called the chicken of aristocrats. Dorking chickens usually win taste tests in the U.S.A. as the tastiest chicken.
What is the highest grade of chicken? Grade A chicken is the highest grade chicken and is the grade of chicken sold at grocery stores and at Chick-fil-A. Grade B chicken is often used in fast food and is the grade sold at Subway, while Mcdonald’s sells Grade C chicken at their restaurants. Grade B and C is also used in processed foods.
What is the chicken breed sold at the grocery stores? In the U.S.A, Cornish Cross chickens are the most common breed sold in grocery stores. Cornish Cross chickens make up nearly all of the commercial industry because of their rapid growth rate and rate gain. Cornish Cross chickens are considered a mild-tasting chicken breed less textured than other heritage breeds.
In conclusion, Bresse chickens are a remarkable breed of chicken that have captured the hearts of poultry enthusiasts around the world. These birds are renowned for their exceptional egg-laying abilities, as well as their succulent meat and unique flavor. With their striking appearance and friendly temperament, Bresse chickens are a wonderful addition to any backyard flock.
Whether you are a hobbyist looking to raise a few chickens for fresh eggs or a foodie seeking the ultimate culinary experience, Bresse chickens are definitely worth considering. So why not try these exceptional birds and see for yourself what all the fuss is about?
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