One of the most frequent arguments against buying organic that we hear is that it is too expensive. Yes, you will pay a small premium, but you pay for what you get. Plus, with a little bit of planning, you can stretch your ingredients and make them last. Case in point: grass fed, pastured chicken.
Chickens that are allowed to scratch in the dirt are healthier and happier. The unhealthy practices of conventional chicken operations are well documented. Because the diet of pastured chickens is more than just corn (or chicken byproducts, parts, etc.) they have more flavor. They are not kept in overcrowded or unhealthy conditions and there is no need to pump them full of antibiotics or other chemicals.
Additionally, many conventional chicken options are ‘enhanced’ with a sodium solution to plump the meat and make it more tender and juicy when cooked. You know all of that liquid you sometimes find when you’ve defrosted some chicken? That’s partly what it is. Squint to read the fine print. Even conventional chicken that is labeled “100% natural” or “all natural” can include these sodium injections, per USDA regulations. Not only is this a hidden source of sodium when we’re already eating too much in our diets, but because a chicken can contain up to 15% additional weight from the added liquid, conventional isn’t as cheap as you might think.
So, you might pay a little more for a pastured chicken from a local farmer. Prices will vary depending on supply and demand in your area, but once you consider the premium you’re paying for that sodium solution in your enhanced chicken, the price difference isn’t so much. Check out Local Harvest for a resource near you.
In order to make your chicken go further, all you need is a little planning. I get three distinct dishes out of a chicken. The initial dish, whatever it might be (roasted, grilled, etc.). Then I save the bones and any left over meat for a chicken stock. Add your basic soup vegetables and simmer for 12 to 24 hours. If you’re not ready to make a soup stock, freeze the bones. I’ll do this and save two or three chicken carcasses at a time, then make a big batch to freeze. Finally, I strain all the big stuff out, de-bone it and I have a healthy supplement for my dog’s dinner. Trust me, he thinks he’s died and gone to heaven when he gets my chicken soup leftovers.
If you have a Vitamix blender, you can blend it all together and the bone pieces will be small enough not to harm your fur friend, but it doesn’t take that long to remove the bones, just make sure it is cool enough to handle. Dogs are omnivores, so you can include the soup vegetables in the food mix, but skip the onions as they are toxic to dogs.
There you have it: three separate meals and that doesn’t even include leftovers!