How Do You Pick Good Poultry?

I just spent the most frustrating half-hour online. I was looking for tips on how to identify good poultry. You know, like with steak you look for good color and marbling, with vegetables you want them heavy for their size and not soft or bruised.

But chicken? Can’t find a single word about it. Oh sure, there’s lots of stuff about different kinds of chicken: fryers, capons, Cornish game hen — yeah, “game”, not believing it. But when I’m looking into the meat counter at the grocery store, how do I pick the best one?

Paging Don Quixote, call on the white courtesy phone

I suspect the answer is going to be that chickens are so uniform that there isn’t any noticeable difference from one to the next. But I don’t want to believe that.

No matter how much factory farms come to resemble sterile production lines, I still want to think that chickens are basically animals. Which means they shouldn’t all be the same. And if they’re not all the same, then one of them in each batch should be the “best”.

Am I tilting at windmills here? Am I looking for something that doesn’t exist? Or is there someone out there who can tell me what to look for when I’m looking at two chickens, so I can choose between them?

And by the way, I know that if I find a local supplier of pastured chickens, they’ll be better than anything in the grocery store. So when I’m looking at pastured chickens, how do I pick the best one?