CHOICE tested eight chickens: two organic, two free-range, one corn-fed and three regular factory-farmed birds.
A chef cooked the chickens, without seasoning or stuffing them. They were identified only by a number on a metal tag attached securely to a leg, so the expert tasters didn’t know the brand or type of chicken they were eating.
Each taster was served a portion of breast and leg meat with a plain green salad and slices of baguette for cleansing the palate between samples.
We asked the tasters to separately rate the breast and leg meat for aroma, texture, flavour and overall impression on a five-point scale.
|Brand (in alphabetical order)
||Price per kg ($)|
|Inglewood Farms Organic
|Steggles Corn Fed
|Woolworths Free Range
|You'll Love Coles
The result was unexpected
There was no significant difference between the scores for free-range or organic chickens and factory-farmed birds. No brand or type stood out as specially tasty. In fact there was general agreement among the experts at the end of the test that "none of them tasted much like the roast chicken that mother used to cook for us when we were kids.”
Two of the chooks divided the experts a bit, but not enough to single any brand out in the taste ratings. Two experts found the most expensive chicken in our test, Inglewood Farms Organic, "dry and unappealing", whereas the others quite liked it.
The Steggles Corn Fed chicken polarised the tasters the most. They either found it "flavoursome and very tender" or thought it had "no real chicken flavour" and questioned whether it had been "pumped up with something".
Our chef didn’t season the chickens at all, whereas most people use salt, pepper, butter, paprika or other herbs and spices on the bird itself, and add still more flavour with stuffing. (See Cooking the best chicken.)
Left to its own devices, chicken meat — no matter where it comes from — doesn’t seem to stack up to much. All in all, it doesn’t seem to matter what chicken you buy from a supermarket. Follow your conscience and go for free-range or organic, or save money on a standard chook — they all taste much the same. And there’s a reason for this (see Fast and faster food).
Meet the experts
Syd runs Pemberton’s Food Workshop in Sydney, where she gives demonstration cooking classes for adults and children. She’s the author of How to Clean Practically Anything, published by CHOICE Books.
Kim is food editor of Super Food Ideas. Prior to that, she was deputy food editor of Woman’s Day and New Idea.
Debbie is an Asian food specialist who organises and runs food tours of Sydney’s markets and more colourful food locations.
Dave has been both a butcher and a chef. He runs Eumundi Smokehouse in Sydney, where he makes traditional charcuterie products using recipes inherited from his Russian grandfather.