I always like to see food that goes way beyond organic. In the macellerie of Umbria, they have started to sell Pollo d'Erba, literally, Chicken of the Grass. The 'pollo' are actually an experiment from the agrarian wing of the University of Perugia. 40 years ago, the scientists there started raising native breeds of Italian chickens that were quickly becoming extinct. Basically they are chickens (mostly roosters, actually) that are allowed to wander free in grassy fields, the way nature intended. Their standards are much higher than that of American "free-range" chickens - these birds get at least 5 square meters each, and the land they peck on must be fertile, green, and grassy. Absolutely no mutilation of the bird is allowed, including clipping wings, and homeopathic cures for diseases are recommended. They also live longer, 100 days. American chickens are lucky if they get 6 weeks. These restrictions result in a bird that is significantly higher in protien, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids, and lower in fat.
I was a little apprehensive about eating the 'pollo'. In Seattle, I always supported my local, organic farmers, and dutifully ate their chickens, and every single one of them was tough as nails, no matter how I cooked them. I became even more apprehensive when I saw the pollo in the butcher. It was small - really small. And thin, with long, lean "chicken" legs. Not too appetizing. Nevertheless, I wanted to try it. The Pollo d'Erba, by law, is sold whole, head and feet intact. (By the way, pollo, in italiano, means rooster, gallina is chicken.) So, we took our rooster home, chopped off his neck, head and feet (for later use, of course), split him down the center, put him over the coals of the fireplace, and crossed our fingers...(we seasoned him al diavolo).
I am happy to report that the pollo was probably one of the best chickens that I have ever eaten! It has an unbelievable amount of flavor, and was not tough at all, but truly juicy (I was worried that maybe we should have brined it prior, but that would have been uneccessary). The only negative was that the meat really stuck to the bones, but that's okay - who doesn't like to gnaw on a chicken bone? - and that's finger-lickin' good!
For more info about Pollo D'Erba, check out these websites (mostly in Italian - but Google will loosely translate some of them). Pollo D'Erba, and Centro Agro Alimentare dell'Umbria
Also, check out my Pollo photos on my flickr.