Prather Ranch (SF) – Heritage Chickens are the new Hoffman

There was a small crisis in the SF food community earlier this year – Hoffman opted to stop selling their chickens at the Saturday Farmer’s Market. If I were prone to waking up before 11am, I would have been sounding the alarms too. Unfortunately, Hoffman was always sold out of chickens before I arrived and the Hoffman lady wasn’t too keen (nor consistent) with saving a chicken for this late sleeper.

And they were pretty good chickens. Their best feature was the ease with which they cooked – plop them into the oven for any reasonable time and you were guaranteed a juicy roast chicken. So consistent these chickens were, I failed to see why any native would spend $40 on a Zuni chicken – you could do it yourself for $8. The taste was better than your average supermarket variety but they did fail to come close to a Bresse chicken from France.

No doubt sensing a market opportunity, Prather Ranch began carrying Heritage Chickens. The chickens are Dark Cornish Chickens, shipped frozen from Kansas. They are a tad pricey at $5.99/lb but they are also quite small – these are not mass-produced chickens from calculated breeding techniques that consider yield the most important attribute of a breed. They are humanely raised and organic – a happy chicken is a tastier chicken; a happy chicken eating good food should be tastier yet.

Ethics aside, how do the birds taste?

Remarkable, for an American chicken.

The first thing one notices is the texture – it’s not unlike a Bresse chicken – the meat is firm and toothesome. The chicken does not flake apart with a fork – it takes a bit of effort to cut it. And then you notice the taste – it actually tastes like something – “chicken” for lack of a better adjective. It’s a slightly gamier taste but, really, it’s just a more concentrated chicken flavor. The skin crisps rather nicely when roasted.

No contest – I actually get a bit upset when I miss a shipment of these birds. Far better than the Hoffman birds ever were.

I use a pretty basic recipe:

  • Massively salt the exterior the night before
  • Pour olive oil between the breast meat and its skin; stick rosemary in there if I have any
  • Stick an orange in its cavity (I’ve found this tastes better than a lemon)
  • Salt, pepper, and olive oil the outside again
  • Cook @ 425 for 45 minutes

Go buy one now.  For more information, you can read the following articles:

- chuck

  • Anita

    holy crap — $15 a pound? that’s right into Zuni territory :D

  • Wilbur M. Reeling

    We have a couple of chicken farms in the area here in Maryland but my favorite has become this FREE RANGE, ORGANICLY GROWN & FED de HEN from a local Mennonite farmer. BELIEVE IT WHEN I SAY …”$1.65 per pound and killed the day you order it”… I think they are killing the famous S.F. “Screaming Eagle”, at the price you are paying and at that price selling it to you poor San Fran Rhubs.

    Here’s a pix of one I recently prepared for the famous gourmet, Mr. Art Bocutti, in Ragged Point, Maryland.

    by Wilbur M. Reeling
    epicurean raconteur

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  • steve

    Howdy all,

    The chickens are not $15/lb. They are actually %5.99/lb. and are about 3 lbs each. Thanks for your support!


    Prather Ranch Meat Co.

  • steve

    Above, that should read $5.99 not %…

    Also, the chickens are available at our Ferry Building location and at the farmers markets we attend: Oakland’s Grand Lake on Saturdays, and Marin Civic Center on Thursdays and Sundays.

  • Administrator

    sorry, yes, they are $5.99/lb. text corrected.