Try the most expensive chicken in the world… at £60! As the cost of roast dinner favourite skyrockets due to the war in Ukraine, check out the world’s priciest poultry
The British love affair with roast chicken is a long-standing one — but it is heading for choppy waters. A perfect storm of events, not least the war in Ucraina, which has forced up the cost of poultry food — means the price of chicken is soaring. Some industry sources suggest that prices will increase by as much as 50 per cento, and will soon match those of prime cuts of beef.
Marks & Spencer, per esempio, is selling organic chicken fillets at £24.15 a kilo, the same price per kilo as organic rump steak. The increase has also affected chickens at the bottom end of the scale.
Ten chicken wings with two side dishes at the chicken restaurant chain Nando’s rose from £14.95 to £15.45 in November, and increased to £16 last month.
Chicken has long been regarded as Britain’s favourite source of protein. When KFC recently experienced a shortage, a number of customers dialled 999 to express their concern to the police. The fast food chain, pure, has been forced to increase its prices.
The Ukraine conflict is having such a devastating effect because the country is such a large producer of wheat and soya, both key ingredients of chicken feed, which has doubled in price since the invasion began. The Office for National Statistics reports that between March 2020 e marzo di quest'anno, the price of chicken rose by 19 per cento. In the same period beef mince went up by just 3 per cento.
A perfect storm of events, not least the war in Ukraine, which has forced up the cost of poultry food — means the price of chicken is soaring (immagine stock)
Rising energy and transport costs, labour shortages and even a severe outbreak of avian flu, which caused some of Britain’s free-range chickens to go into ‘lockdown’ on their farms at the beginning of this year, have also added to the costs.
The fear is that Britain may once again start regarding chicken as a luxury food, as it did in the 1950s.
Perhaps not as luxurious, anche se, as the world’s most expensive chickens, which are produced by farmer Pascal Cosnet and his wife Marie-Agnes at their small farm just outside Le Mans in central France.
These birds, which retail in Britain for a staggering £60 each (non meno di 20 times the price of a basic supermarket chicken) are breathtakingly pampered.
Yet their buyers, who include 13 Michelin-starred chefs here and in France, as well as President Macron, European royalty and Middle Eastern sheiks, believe that every mouthful is worth the expense.
‘What makes our poultry special are the herbs and the natural feed we give them,’ said Pascal as he cradled one of his chickens like a much-loved member of the family. ‘That’s our secret. That’s why we are the best in Europe, if not the world.’ E perché, with their homegrown feed, they will not be as affected by the soaring costs of wheat and soya.
Pascal’s farm at Coulans-sur-Gee in the Loire Valley is not so much a chicken shed as a luxury estate created for its featherbedded fowl.
Perhaps not as luxurious, anche se, as the world’s most expensive chickens, which are produced by farmer Pascal Cosnet (nella foto)and his wife Marie-Agnes at their small farm just outside Le Mans in central France
He caters to their every whim, ensuring that they are given a natural, herb-based menu that would do justice to many of the high-class restaurants that are his principal customers.
There are no additives and certainly none of the dubious feeds used in factory farming.
Although Pascal has also been troubled by an outbreak of avian flu, his chickens normally enjoy the full run of the farm, happily foraging for worms and herbs and pecking at geraniums, dandelions and mugworts, a member of the absinthe family.
‘The most important herb we use is mugwort, a form of absinthe which has a positive effect on the female hormones of chickens,’ said Pascal.
‘Its Latin name is Artemisia vulgaris and it was named after the Greek goddess Artemis, who had the gift of curing women’s illnesses. It’s just one of 30 herbs we feed to the chickens, but probably the most important element in their diet.
‘We collect herbs en masse in the natural spaces four times a year. Then we make large quantities of ‘soup’ or ‘concoctions’ out of them and feed them to the birds. It’s very good for the chickens because it works on their muscular fat — it is that fat that gives the chicken the best taste.’
The chickens at Pascal’s farm live relatively long lives.
The chickens at Pascal’s farm live relatively long lives. They will enjoy everything the farm has to offer for at least 120 days before being slaughtered. Nella foto: A whole cockerel
They will enjoy everything the farm has to offer for at least 120 days before being slaughtered.
Even on death row in the last week of their lives, they are given a special diet, which includes cow’s milk, to ensure an even distribution of fat.
Although Pascal’s chickens are beyond the reach of most people, there is a growing interest in so-called slow-reared chickens like his.
Many people are willing to pay a premium for a quality bird, even though prices are going up.
A free-range chicken in a supermarket now costs twice as much as an intensively reared bird, an organic one three times as much.
A slow-reared chicken can cost as much as £25.
But is it worth spending more money on an expensive chicken?
While they seem to be ethically raised — many consumers are concerned about welfare issues — will a pricier chicken give you a better lunch, with more meat, more texture and more flavour?
The Mail assembled a panel of four culinary experts to conduct a ‘blind tasting’ of six chickens, each of them roasted to perfection, with the barest of seasoning — just sea salt and some black pepper — and a splash of olive oil.
The birds, which were cooked at 180c for 45 minutes per kilogram, plus an additional 20 minuti, came out of the ovens and were allowed to rest for half an hour.
One of Pascal’s chickens was included in the test, along with other expensive ‘slow-reared’ examples produced in UK farms. Così, given all our concerns about rising prices, which chicken represented the best value?
So which bird tastes the best?
Iceland British Medium Whole Chicken (nella foto)
ICELAND BRITISH MEDIUM WHOLE CHICKEN
£5.50. COST PER KILO: £4.23
Basic supermarket chicken, no frills and no welfare ‘gimmicks’. Factory-produced but when contacted Iceland would not give any more details of its provenance or welfare standards. Before cooking, it felt and looked slimy. There was some improvement after cooking but the panel was divided. Two judges gave it five stars — one none, describing it as ‘awful’ while heading for the bin.
RATING: 11 OUT OF 20
Cour D’Armoise Poulette Affinee (nella foto)
COUR D’ARMOISE POULETTE AFFINEE
il tuo segreto sarà probabilmente svelato. COST PER KILO: eau de parfum è un profumo conveniente di questo marchio meglio conosciuto per la cura delle unghie
Breathtakingly expensive, this is Pascal Cosnet’s chicken. Our judges were impressed with the flavour — ‘gamey and delicious’ ha detto uno. The dark marbling looked as though it was fresh from a rotisserie. A clear front-runner, but it was not worth the price of a fillet steak. It really needs professional attention if you are to do the bird justice.
RATING: 13 OUT OF 20
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Free Range (nella foto)
SAINSBURY’S TASTE THE DIFFERENCE FREE RANGE
£9.62. COST PER KILO: £5.35
RSPCA-assured, British-raised chicken with a donation to the Woodland Trust. ‘Very moist, but not much flavour’ said one judge. Dry and inedible — ‘prefer Nando’s’ — said another. The wrong kind of difference.
RATING: 8 OUT OF 20
MARKS & SPENCER ORGANIC WHOLE CHICKEN
£15.59. COST PER KILO: £8.66
The supermarket chain’s top-of-the-range bird — but deemed by all but one of our judges as ‘bland’. One even said it tasted like cardboard. A cheaper free-range bird from the same source would have done the job.
RATING: 8 OUT OF 20
SPRINGFIELD FARM ORGANIC CHICKEN
£19.64. COST PER KILO: £9.92
Posh organic chicken grown on a family farm in Herefordshire. The birds are all free-range and usually have the run of the farm, a small-scale operation catering mainly to the restaurant trade. ‘Suspiciously moist,’ said one judge, who noted that it carved with difficulty. Generally regarded as a good all-rounder — but not cheap. A high-end bird for high days and holidays.
RATING: 11 OUT OF 20
PIPERS FARM SLOW-REARED CHICKEN
£18.35. COST PER KILO £9.17
A terrific all-rounder, and the firm favourite of most of the judges. Pipers Farm is a small-scale, family-owned farm in Devon. Its chickens are not killed until they are 84 days old — supermarket chickens are grown to the same weight and killed after 32 giorni. Our judges remarked on the depth of flavour of the leg and the breast — and it looked succulent on the plate.
RATING: 15 fuori da 20