Are you passionate about happy chickens? Eat up Pastured Poultry Week.

 

Free range chickens at White Oak Pastures in Bluffton, GA. The chickens aren't confined and are allowed to walk around as they please. Chickens kept in a free range environment cost 100% more to raised at industrial poultry farms according to Will Harris, owner of the small organic farm and slaughter house. BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

Free- range chickens at White Oak Pastures in Bluffton, GA. Photo by Brant Sanderlin.

Now in its fifth year, Pastured Poultry Week returns to Atlanta this month. From July 11 to 18, more than 30 metro-Atlanta restaurants will be serving some of the best chicken raised in America. Pasture-raised chickens are rich with flavor and dense in texture. If you haven’t eaten a pasture-raised bird, you don’t quite know what chicken can taste like.

Georgia likes to tout itself as the chicken capital of the world. More than a billion chickens are raised in this state every year. The industry has seen a fair amount of criticism in recent months. In May, Oxfam America released a report that said conditions in some chicken processing plants are so bad that line workers are forced to wear diapers to keep up with the pace. Rampant antibiotic use, necessary because of the dense confinement, is contributing to dangerous, antibiotic-resistant bugs, said the AMR. Industry giant Perdue Chicken, embattled since a whistle-blower revealed startling details about its practices in 2014, has been racing to save face and promise reforms, among others.

But Georgia also boasts a number of pastured poultry farms, where chickens are raised outdoors, scratching in grass without drugs, and processed at a pace livable for the workers and the birds. Chicken from those farms – White Oak Pastures in Bluffton and Grassroots Farms in Tantall among them – will be served at participating Atlanta restaurants this week. Hopefully a few of them will decide keep it on the menu, too.

Two restaurants, Bellina Alimentari and Gunshow, will hold events with both educational and dining components. On July 11, Bellina’s chef Gizzy Barton will discuss the best preparation and cooking methods for pasture-raised birds, as well give some advice for navigating the sometimes deceptive marketing labels on meat in the grocery store. On July 16, Gunshow chef Joey Ward will host a meet and greet with White Oak Pasture’s Will Harris, who will tell stories and answer questions about his farm.

A list of the participating restaurants and events can be found here.

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