It is high time someone stood up and said a word on behalf of the free range chickens. I mean, if I don’t say something, who will? The birds can’t speak for themselves, you know? Bless their little chicken hearts.
Ok, real quick – I’ll interrupt this crazy chicken rant to let you know that it would seem that the Real Food – Low Cost Challenge has sent me over the edge to the land of insanity. You know me well enough to have guessed that this was likely to happen some day soon, and probably saw that the end was near when I was struggling so much last week in my effort to figure out the cost of a (stinkin’) cup of whole wheat flour.
But back to the speechless chickens, and my determination to see that they are no longer misunderstood.
I currently pay $12.50 for one free range chicken. Twelve dollars and 50 cents. Many people think that’s a crazy amount to spend on a chicken when I could instead go the store and grab a whole chicken for $3-$5.
But, I hold firm to the belief that my chickens are not expensive. The chickens I buy are very large – usually around five or six pounds each. In fact, I always, without skimping, get at least four meals out of my chickens, if not six. Read here about how I can stretch a chicken to get six meals. Therefore, my one $12.50 investment in chicken costs me, at the most, only $3.13 for a nice amount of meat/broth per meal.
Based on this figure, and on the fact that making homemade whole wheat noodles is also very low in cost, I was thrilled to learn today that I can make a big pot of Chicken Noodle Soup for only $4.03. Four dollars and three cents!!!!! This, for one of the most nutritious meals on the face of the earth. That is $0.67 per family member at my house. Doesn’t that just make you want to stand up and do the chicken dance?
Well, doesn’t it?!
Okay, me neither. But still, I’m pretty excited. In addition, I learned that a batch of Easy Noodle Stir Fry costs about $8.53, which breaks down to $1.42 per person.
I’m thinking that I need to make chicken meals more often since I’m able to pull them together for such a low cost. It is amazing what all I’ve been learning as I’ve broken down the cost of our favorite, real food meals.
So, tell me about the chickens where you’re from. Have you found a good price for a good chicken? Are you able to find free range chickens where you live? How big are your chickens?
I tell you what, nothing beats a good discussion about poultry. ;)
If I could find a free range chicken of 5-6 lbs for $12.50, I’d snatch it up! Unfortunately, the best we have found so far in our area is a 3-4 lb chicken for $20. :-( We try to not go over $5/lb for free range or organic so the chicken is out for now.
Chicken here on Vancouver island sells for 3.50 – 4.00$ a pound. That is for free run chickens and they are usually 6 to 10 pounds each.. so yup we are paying way more money up here in Canada!!
$12.50 AUD is what we pay for a normal large chook in the poultry section of the supermarket. I doubt if thy are free-range as I’m sue they’d be labelled as such, and be much more expensive. We need 2 chooks to feed our family, and currently we are limiting our budget to $10 worth of meat/fish/poultry per meal, so a roast chook is out of the question although we do use thigh fillets for stir-fries.
Not to sound snobbish….but I do raise my own chicken and butcher a few times a year. Not sure how many of you have considered this but it is wayyy more cheaper and healthier to raise your own meat chickens. I buy chicks in the Spring for two dollars and free range then til Fall. Butcher out and there you have fresh meat for the Winter. There are awesome videos to show how to butcher if you have never done it.
I recently found a farm near us that sells free range chickens and game hens for $2.50 per lb. The supplemental feed is not organic but I know they are out most of the time and getting plenty of bugs. I feel better about them than the organic chickens from the grocery store.
Michelle @ Changed By The Maker says
I have not yet found free range chickens, but I am going to try! I have used your post about getting at least 4 meals out of a chicken, and in my house, we only have 2 kids, so we actually got about 7 meals! I can totally justify $12.50 for a chicken! Now, I just have to find a source. I hope I can find one Thanks for the $ breakdown! I can’t do that kind of thing — it makes me nuts. I hope you fare better than I would!! Thanks for all this wonderful, useful information!
Sarah DJ says
Laura, do you get your chicken locally, or through Azure?
I have a couple of great local sources.
I would love to raise our own chickens, but it is illegal in our municipality
I have not yet found a source for free range chicken. I’m in Southern CA. If anyone knows of a local farmer, please let me know! In the meantime, I buy the cleanest chicken I can find from Sprouts. I’ve had some problems with their chicken being really tough and chewy though. :(
Heather @ Nourishing the Heart says
I’ve been getting our organic chicken from Sprouts as well and know I HAVE to cook it in the crockpot or it will be tough. Hoping I can find a better source soon.
Free range chickens here are 3-4lbs each (barely) and $20. Or you can get feed-fed (vs. pastured) but happy 4lb chickens occasionally for $10/ea if you know someone (but they’re not super tender). So yes, you have a screamin’ deal on yours.
Raising a few chickens (and cleaning out some bugs from our yard/garden!) for eggs and meat is on our eventual to-do list, even if we have to do it all stealth-like.
I would love to have chickens, mainly for the eggs (doubt I could kill and eat one)but it’s illegal where I live. Our local EarthFare sells free range for about $4.57 a pound. They are small about 2 to 3 lbs each. Pretty high priced. I’m still looking. Thanks for all your hard work. It truly is appreciated. In many ways your blog has changed my life. I love to learn :)
Right now I have chickens for eggs, but I am hoping to get meat chickens for the first time this summer. I was buying free-range chickens at our Amish farm where we buy our milk, but they were about $10 for a smallish bird. Not enough to feed our family of 8. So I went back to getting my chickens at the grocery store. If I have success with raising my own, I might branch out to raising pigs and maybe someday a cow for beef. Wrote a post about this recently: http://bringingboryahome.blogspot.com/2012/01/farm-friday-how-far.html
I’m extremely lucky to get free range chicken so cheap. I pay $6 for a 5lb bird. They aren’t certified organic, but I know exactly where they came from and how they are raised. I would rather know where my food came from and how it was raised vs. paying big dollars in a chain store for the organic label. It is illegal to raise chickens here, but I would love to raise them for eggs. I could never kill and eat something I would consider a pet.
I pay $17 for my farm raised-pasture raised happy chickens. They are huge. I put them in the crock pot, pull at the meat off the bones, and then make broth. So I get the most out of them. I know it seems expensive, but it is worth my family’s health.
C. Dazey says
I don’t mean to sound silly here, but I don’t understand why it is important to buy free range. Is there a nutritional difference? I would have a hard time justifying the price difference of conventional vs. free range if I didn’t know why. Thanks for any help/advice you could give. Blessings.
My thought is that buying free-range and/or organic chickens is you know what they’ve been fed and how they were raised. They’re eating what they were designed to eat (bugs, insects, etc) and aren’t confined to a cage or large house where they can’t move about freely. Free-range chickens would seem to be raised more humanely than ones raised on a chicken farm. They’re not spending time with other chickens who could be aggressive, harm other chickens, and then you’ve got the possibility of infections and germs that can be passed on. Plus, it seems that they’d be walking around in feces, which then could be taken to processing and then could, (could) end up on your chicken. However, I think companies use some sort of a bleach/ammonia solution to clean the chickens, so that takes care of the germs, right? Blech. Plus, I’ve noticed in buying chickens from say, Tyson or Perdue, the amount of solution they pump into the chicken to make then weigh more just seeps out and makes the chicken slimy and gross. Plus, IMO, they leave fat and cartilage on the pieces so they’ll weigh more so they can put fewer pieces in the package and still make the most money. Wow…I didn’t realize how intense my feelings were on this! I’ll admit, I don’t have a place to buy free-range chickens…yet. I’m researching and budgeting so I can purchase them and feed my family of 4 the best that I can. Hope this helps someone and I pray God’s blessings on y’all today!
C. Dazey says
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my question!
Google “factory farming” and you’ll know exactly why free range is
I raise my own chickens for both meat & eggs. The amount of money invested in both is about a wash. I sell my extra eggs, but really the reason I do it is because I enjoy it. We farm – conventional, not organic, however, if more people really took a look at either operation, not what the internet shows you. truly watch a farm in operation, there really is not a big difference between the two. I watch my “organic” neighbors farm, and you would never get me to eat that stuff after I see what they do to the crops. Unless you raise all of your own food, you really do not know what is in it. Organic IMO is not better for you, You are buying into the hype that they want you too. I don’t want to start something here, & am not trying to offend anyone, but don’t classify all farmers as bad if you have never spent time on a farm.
I think it depends on the crop and the chemicals being used. I grew up on a commercial raspberry farm, and Dad sprayed the fields with Malathion every couple of weeks or so during harvest. He did other sprays as well – herbicides, etc. In later years, some of the fertilizers were injected into the irrigation emitter system, so at least we weren’t breathing them.
I used to get awful headaches from the sprays, even though us kids were all chased inside during application, with the windows shut up tight. Our fruit used to give me stomachaches as well, if I ate it straight off the vine. My brother still won’t eat raspberries of any sort.
I’ve found that I really love our local organic raspberries, as well as what I pick on our own backyard bushes. My parents have since sold the farm, but Dad keeps his chemical license so that he can purchase spray for their small backyard patch. I still can’t eat their raspberries without tummy aches. I’m also certain that he’s not over-applying, according to the instructions, since he works closely with the local extension agent as well as the local chem rep.
Two years ago, Dad arranged for me to have a pruning lesson from a local orchard foreman. We want to grow our own fruit, and I knew that I needed a good lesson. While we were there, the foreman offered to show us what they use on their crops. We were in the chemical storage shed for less than ten minutes – probably five – and there were no open containers. The fumes were so thick that y clothing, hair and skin were completely permeated. I had to shower THOROUGHLY and wash everything three times before the stench came out. We weren’t even in contact with the liquid chemicals – just the residual fumes! I can’t imagine that the stuff washes off of produce with just a little water, even when its been diluted.
I’ve always been pretty sensitive to chemicals, though. Can’t handle parabens in my soaps and lotions, etc. I guess personal sensitivity to chemicals has to be taken into consideration as well as the crop and what it ‘requires’ when it comes to making the judgement call between organic and conventional. We get our applesauce and cider apples from a conventional farm each year. We know the owners, and they have been kind enough to share their application schedule with us. Since they use no pesticides, and use an herbicide only prior to budding, we’re comfortable with it. Knowing the farmer and having multiple conversations about methods, plus visiting the farm is definitely the informed consumer’s way to go.
Watch Food Inc. to learn some interesting facts about your food. As a sustainable food advocate that raises as much of our food as we can I believe you are voting with your $ when you buy from direct from a farmer, it’s worth the $ if you can find it. Whether they feed organic or conventional is another component to the final product. Pastured matters more than “free-range” since the commercial farm has bastardized that term. Pastured birds eating bugs and grass are likely healthier for you to eat due to not eating as much grain which unless sproated is messing with the Omega 6 and 3 ratio. Another film to watch Farmaggedon….so sad to read some of the posts say it was “illegal” to grow their own food….that should be very frightening to all who eat! ;-)
I get my chickens from Honored Prairie (check them out if you are in michigan, ohio, indiana and near chicago). They are like $13 a bird and weigh 3.5 – 4 lbs. After eating these for awhile I had a chicken from the grocery store and was amazed at how slimy, rubbery and tasteless it was. Never going back to grocery store chicken!
I always buy Springer Mountain Farms chicken, which is in the grocery store. I’m not sure if they’re free range, but they are Certified Humane, and they taste SO GOOD! Way better than regular grocery store chicken. Even my dad noticed the difference, and he is NOT one to care about where his food comes from.
Springer Mountain Farms is in Georgia, but I can find it here in Alabama, so maybe it’s all over the Southeast? It’s pricier, but SO worth it just for the taste!
Faith @ Storms Stories says
I pay $2.99/lb for free range pastured Chicken in Central Illinois. It usually comes out to around $15 for an almost 5 lb. chicken. I don’t find this to be expensive because, like you Laura, I am able to get 6-8 meals plus 72-96 ounces of broth and a good amount of lard from that one chicken.
Hey, how do you get lard from a chicken? Maybe I should google it.
Faith @ Storms Stories says
It is super easy! I take the skin off the chicken after I have cooked
it and put it in a deep frying pan on the stovetop. I cook the skin over
medium heat for 30-45 minutes. You now have crispy chicken skin, which
I use in salads, and the dripping from the skin left in the pan is your
I cannot remember the exact price that I payed last for my Free Range, Organic chicken but I will soon know b/c I’m going to be doing another freezer cooking round. I am blessed that our local Costco started selling good FR/O whole chickens. They were about 2.69/lb (or somewhere around there) when I first started buying them last year. But last Dec was my lastest price and they were somethere over $3/lb. (under $4 though). It’s great b/c I too am able to make several meals out of the chickens. They come packed in two so for two It’s around $22/2 chickens. :)
A great place to find farm raised, free range or organic chickens is Home Grown Cow. You can search their list of farms for one near you or that has the breed or style you’re looking for. You place your order directly with the farm through Home Grown Cow. You can pay with a credit card and have the chicken shipped to your home. They are also offering a 5% discount in February. Just use a promo code FEB2012. Even with shipping, it’s cheaper then our local specialty market.
Hi all. I have a question. Are the chickens you’re using fresh or are they frozen? I have held off from buying a chicken from our CSA to date b/c they are frozen & I like to roast one & freeze the extra meat & broth for later meals & I’m concerned about the double freezing.
They are fresh when I pick them up usually, but I do usually freeze them right away.
It is safe to thaw a frozen chicken, cook it to it’s ideal temp,
and then freeze the leftovers. As long as the leftovers are out of the
danger zone temps for less than 4 hours. Cooking the chicken to its
ideal temp kills any germs present and then freezing keeps them from growing.
Jenny C. says
I don’t have access to free-range chickens where I live… at least not that I know of. I can get organic Harvest Farms chickens at the grocery store. They go on sale every couple of months for $1.29/lb and I stock-up! I can usually get 2 meals out of the meat for our family of 4, plus a boat-load of broth.
Costco carries free range whole chickens–I think about $3.50 a pound. The taste and texture is good. Local would be better but “local” at the farmer’s market is still shipped in from out of state (and three times the price).
I’m in Southern Virginia and get 3lb pastured chickens for $10 or 4-5 lbs for $14 (two different sources)…the cheaper one tends to be slightly more tough, but not enough to matter.
I’m in South East Virginia – Virginia Beach. Are we close? I’d love to have your sources!
I’m about 3 hrs from VA beach but I’d be glad to share with you if you are still interested… email me at webbletsATjuno.com
If you are allowed to grow your own chickens where you live, it is so worth it. We live on a tiny city lot, but we have 5 egg chickens running around the back yard and we raise 10 meat chickens at a time in the summer. We feed them organic, soy and corn free food and they get lots of bugs and a ton of grass. They are amazingly healthy and tasty and it costs us only about $9.00 for a 5 – 6 pound chicken. I butcher them while my husband disappears for a few hours. The chickens from the store are more than twice that much so it is well worth it.
I got a pastured whole chicken for $2.99 a lb and I think that’s pretty good especially considering that I was buying chicken thighs for almost six dollars a pound. AND with this whole chicken, I got the liver which is super exciting because it’s so nutritious. So I’ll be buying that again!
We have helped raise our chickens the past two years. They’re free-range, pastured, organic! Because we’ve helped raise and butcher, plus acquired the big pieces of processing equipment (in anticipation of purchasing enough property to do this on our own), we pay cost… but the price our farmer friends sell then for to regular customers is $18/bird.
We love our chicken! It tastes fabulous, and I don’t have to worry about what I’m feeding my family. Last year we did turkeys, too, with similar results.
Shawna Cale says
I spend about $60 on 4 free range chickens and a 5# bag of chicken tenders once a month. The chickens range from 2 12 to 5 pounds. They are from a free range farm that is run by a man that started his chicken farm for previous drug users and prisoners. I make a whole chicken in my crockpot once a week. We eat the chicken as a meal. I then debone the chicken and depending on its size how many meals I get out of it. I either make chicken and rice, chicken and noodles, chicken and dumplings or chicken pot pie. That will usually make it for a dinner and lunch the following day. If we have any other chicken leftover we use it for salads and chicken quesadilla’s for lunch. With the bones I make a bone broth that I use for my soups or chicken pot pie. I make a 2nd batch of bone broth and put all the bones and the broth into my vitamix and use it for a gravy for my dog. She used to have a limp, but as long as I give her the bonebroth gravy, no limp. Also, absolutely no waste to my chicken.
I make popcorn chicken out of the chicken tenders and freeze them for lunch. Usually 4 lunches out of 5 #’s. I would say out of my $60, I get a minimum of 16 meals for 5 people. That breaks down to $3.75 a meal or .75 per person.
Our joke recently is that our 4-H home-raised broilers (that were NOT free range and we fed gross regular feed store chicken feed – ugh!! – until the last bag which was organic) were only about $37 apiece if you count the gas we used while taking them with us for Christmas vacation, lol. Yes, we seriously took our chickens with us! 900+ miles round-trip. With Christmas lights on the chicken coop on the back of a trailer when we arrived at my in-laws. Parked in their driveway for a week. No kidding.
We’ve been eating chicken spaghetti, tortilla soup (my favorite), chicken tacos, chicken taquitos (there is a difference between tacos and taquitos, trust me!), chicken sandwiches, homemade chicken nuggets, and chicken soup. See the trend of shredded chicken? I still can’t bear to serve them whole!
What a funny story! I wish I was part of your family :) !
Well, I read this post last night and went to Costco today (because I already needed to buy whole chickens), and found the organic free-range birds were 2.29/lb. So I paid $24.00 for 2/5 lb birds. Great price, but I would rather buy pastured from a local farmer, if I can find one. I am in the Seattle area. I buy my ground beef from Azure Standard husbandry, and I would buy pastured chicken from them if they raised their own (not the ones they sell). Great post!!
I have nothing to add to this discussion, except I love talking turkey (or chicken).
But, let me say, Laura, that I think you earned a Pullet Surprise with this post. (Get it? Pulitzer Prize.)
Aren’t you glad I don’t have anything to add?
Nicole Stoddard says
We get a 3-4 pound chicken for about 11-12 bucks a pop. With my family of four (kids are 1 and 3) I can get 8 meals out of one bird. A great great deal, for quality meat.
I buy free range chickens from a near by Amish family (I live in northern Indiana). I go every August and purchase 15 – 20 whole birds and they last my family of 4 for the whole year. I pay $1.85 a pound and the birds average 6 – 7 pounds each. Would not trade this wonderful meat for “cage” chicken, even if it was free!
I’m a Virginia farmer, I raise cage free chickens that run all over the farm everyday, I butcher 3 times a year, If you would like to buy whole chickens 3 or more I will be glad to put you on the list. Twice a year I have young whole birds for $2.50 /lb., I have layers that are between 18 1nd 24 months old once a year that are about 5 to 6 lb birds for $2.25/lb. I have free range eggs most all the time for $2.50/dz. If you would like to order any fresh poultry just drop me a line…. Thanks Tim