What is the most flavorful chicken in the Bay Area?

What is the most flavorful chicken to buy in the Bay Area? Is the Petaluma poultry chicken commonly available? I am not sure if it’s seen it but will look for it.

It’s the breed of chicken that matters. Poultry farms settled on the Cornish Cross because it grows big and does so fast. It is also one of the blandest, if not THE blandest variety. Just as breed matters in pork, beef, lamb, etc., it matters in poultry as well.

Market economics mean the Cornish Cross blankets the U.S., with very few heritage alternatives (by percentage). Almost without exception they are smaller, take longer to raise, and are not quite as tender (noticeable on the dark meat, not so much the white).

High Point Farms - which I am not endorsing, btw - wrote a very funny history on their chicken raising. Their comment about the Cornish Cross will make you smile: http://www.highpointfarms.net/meat-chickens.html.

We ate at Backyard in Forestville a few years back, with some friends. A decent dinner, lousy service, but the fried chicken was amazing. I noted they got their chickens (then, anyway) from Green Star Farms in Sebastopol. The chicken pieces were noticeably smaller than usual, but the flavor was rich and wonderful.

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Some tips from Jonathan Kauffman. Ironic that San Francisco Poultry sources their huang mao chickens from the same producer as Mary’s Chickens, though not from the same farms. The kui fei chicken referenced might by a Rocky from Petalma Poultry.

Very interesting and informative! I’ve seen black chicken for sale at 99 Ranch Market in Richmond. Is that a good choice?

Black chicken (aka “silkies”) is used for soup. It makes a wonderful broth.


I personally don’t like the red dates, so I leave them out. If you google “silkie” recipes, you should be able to find many different versions.

I occasionally find a newish breed called “Red Ranger” at poultry vendors at Ferry Plaza FM. It’s not a cheap chicken, running about $9 lb., or about the price of a Guinea fowl, which I also like. But they have a richer meat, and particularly tasty skin. Incidentally, Guinea fowl are also regularly available at S.F. Poultry on Grant Ave. It is the cleanest, best smelling shop in Chinatown, and Guinea hens, when they have them are $18 each, head and feet included.

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Here is a somewhat dated board for SF Poultry’s Stockton St. branch. Are the Guinea fowl at the Grant Avenue branch in the board listings, or do they post a sign when they are available?


I get mine at the Grant Ave. location. I don’t recall if they’re on the sign or not, I just know them when I see them. You would have better luck asking than I do since I speak zero Cantonese.

I’d have to enlist my wife. And hope they understand Mandarin.

She’s been known to bring home live brown chickens, but I’m not sure where she gets them.

The folks on Grant (Dupont) speak Mandarin. English, not so much.

I was once on a “gamblers’ special” bus from Chinatown to Reno with my wife. The tour leader occasionally made announcements in Mandarin. Finally one passenger scolded him.

“This is America,” he said. “You should learn a little Cantonese.”


Belcampo’s heritage is if I recall correctly, a form of hybrid chicken. Its not quite as skinny as Chinatown yellow feather chicken, but its leaner and smaller (2-4 pounds), and taste chicken-y good.

Its $7/ pound so its not cheap. But when the weather is warm, Belcampo sometimes run B1G1 promotions, and then the chicken becomes a rocking deal.

This chicken is more suitable for Asian-style recipe preps. For roasting, their non-heritage chicken is more suitable at $6/ pound.

Hoffman chicken was good for me for roasting. Are they still around? I used to get it Cafe Rouge in Berkeley. I think they are (or maybe were) sold at Magnani on Hopkins and Local Butcher on Shattuck- call to confirm.

I very vaguely recall Ferry Building used to have a good vendor but a few years ago left. Any good chicken there?

For non-organic, jidori is fine (but not as good as Belcampo) and cheaper. Though they too I believe is around $4/ pound these days. Its sold at Mitsuwa the Japanese supermarket and produced somewhere near LA in Central Valley.

“Free-range vegetarian chicken” is a non sequitur. Anybody who has been around chickens knows they will eat insects and worms. A truly vegetarian chicken would have to be isolated from nature.

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Indeed. Though, as far as true pastured chicken is concerned, they will get their bugs when they venture outside, never mind the supplemental feed is vegetarian or not.

In the ‘40s and ‘50s, farmers fed chickens meat scraps, offal and blood and bone meal, they said.

But under current rules for “organic” food, animal feed cannot include mammalian parts, officials said.

That is new to me. I guess that’s why pastured chicken just tastes better. Besides getting more exercise, they are getting some real (to-them) food.

I got a black chicken at 99 Ranch Market in Richmond. Imported from Canada and pricy ($17 for a smallish chicken). I used it in a slow braised curry made with onions, garlic, Thai chilis, white wine, coconut milk, cumin, coriander, ground fennel, turmeric, red pepper and fish sauce. The chicken had a deep almost turkey like flavor. It stood up to the spicy curry. After a long braise the meat was firm with good texture and not at all tough. My husband said there was something disconcerting about eating black poultry meat but it didn’t bother me. All in all I felt the dish came out more flavorful than if I used a normal chicken. Delicious!

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But why buy a silkie imported from Canada, when you can buy a live or freshly-killed one in SF Chinatown? Not sure of the current price, but a 2013 Chowhound report by Melanie Wong pegged them at $10-$12 each at King Poultry. I’ve seen live ones on Grant Ave (Ming Kee?) and also on Stockton St., IIRC.

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I live in Vallejo and work in the east bay so 99 ranch in Richmond is really convenient. Traffic into and out of SF lately has been a nightmare. That’s the main reason

What’s the better Chinatown source for birds these days? I vaguely recall Ming Kee raises their own birds at some point, but that may be a long time ago. Or do they all get from the same poultry farmers now?

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Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, Yuanyang County, Yunnan
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