Of all the issues these birds have the worst problems occur in the parent stock. Crosses are bred to be slaughtered at a young age, long before they reach sexual maturity. There must also be parent stock to provide new chicks and these birds have to live to full sexual maturity, which has disastrous consequences for them. These parents are often specially bred to overeat but once they stop growing they need to be taken off food so they literally don’t eat themselves to death but their drive to consume food is so strong that they seem to go crazy without the ability to constantly eat. The list of horrors experienced by these poor creatures goes on and on. A free range hybrid will spend a scant few weeks on pasture while its parents spend their whole lives cooped up in some freaky factory farm going crazy.
On the other side of the coin we have standard bred birds, which are commonly today referred to as heritage chickens. Instead of being engineered for fast growth or overeating they’re bred to live long and healthy lives outdoors. From bitter cold to 100 degree weather, heritage chickens can stay robust, energetic and healthy through it all. Standard bred birds have balanced fat profiles, higher levels of protein and a more intense and diverse range of flavors. Instead of having only one type of chicken available, as is the case with hybrids, with heritage chicken there are multiple breeds and within each one there are four classes of chicken based on age. While the terms broiler, fryer, roaster and stewing fowl mean little when buying hybrids, with standard bred chicken each term represents a different age group that cooks and tastes very different.
Frank Reese is an iconic heritage poultry farmer who maintains the greatest wealth of knowledge and largest breeding stocks of well-bred meat birds in the world. His small Kansas farm is the literal Noah’s ark of standard bred poultry and he is the only farmer in the world to produce USDA certified heritage stock. Frank saved several breeds of turkey from extinction and has been able to help spark a resurgence in the heritage turkey market. But chicken’s perception as cheap everyday meat has stunted growth, which has led to Frank still being virtually the only game in town. He is one of the last master heritage poultry breeders left and much of his knowledge is in danger of being lost. Like heritage, kosher is a niche meat which already costs more. That along with some other factoors makes kosher poultry's entrance into the heritage market very difficult. It seems that other than a small run of turkeys in 2009 commercial kosher heritage poultry has been wholly unavailable for at least the last 50 years time.