Eating Local on the East End: Profile of Browder’s Birds

After years of the daily grind in the city, many of us want a very different way of life.  But few make the leap.  Thankfully, Chris and Holly Browder had the courage to follow their passion and moved out to the East End to sustainably raise chickens.

IMG_3624Wanting to get back in touch with his North Carolina roots, Chris did a farm apprenticeship and confirmed that he could make a permanent career change.  Leaving behind the banking and consulting worlds, with the help of the Peconic Land Trust, the couple leased 5 acres to start raising chickens for the 2010 season.  About two years later, the Browders bought a 16 acre farm in Mattituck on the North Fork of Long Island and expanded their operations.

Because they don’t have enough space to raise chickens from egg to market, they purchase hatchlings from a Mennonite farm in Pennsylvania.  They grow to about 5-6 weeks (big enough so the hawks don’t snatch them).

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The baby chicks are protected here.

When they’re safe from predators, the birds move to larger digs where they can move about until they’re ready to be butchered.

IMG_3625Raising certified organic white and red broilers, Little Gerrys (named for the North Fork Table & Inn chef, Gerry Hayden; they’re fed scraps from the restaurant and a portion of sales goes to fund ALS research) and egg-layers, the simple life doesn’t mean they gave up hard work.  Feeding the chickens, and now lambs, working the land and giving back to the community is a full-time job.   Thankfully, Dennis helps out.

IMG_3626One of their biggest challenges has been in figuring out how to get these to the customer.  There’s no USDA processing facility on Long Island. The closest is in Providence, RI, and requires a long and pricey ferry trip there and back.  The Browders bought a mobile processing unit, or “chicken tractor” as they call it, to butcher birds onsite, but this gives them limited reach.  They’re hoping for USDA certification so they can expand their capabilities and help other farmers, and bring more certified organic chicken to the local community.

IMG_3691At $7/lb for the regular broilers and $8/lb for the red ones, this isn’t Purdue territory.  (Eggs are $9/dozen.)  Here, the birds are well-fed (hence the cost), ethically raised and treated with respect.  They also sell lambswool/yarn from the lambs they raise, dry rub and brine for the chicken, and local honey.

Of course I had to buy a chicken to see what the fuss is all about.  I went with the red broiler.

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Note the neck is still on, but you won’t get the innards.

To prepare the bird with the care in which it was raised, I decided to simply roast it, at 425 degrees, with butter, lemon, rosemary and thyme.

IMG_3693 Then served it with vegetables from my CSA — roasted broccoli and cauliflower with rosemary mashed potatoes.

IMG_3695 You’ll taste the difference the feed makes in the meat, especially the sweet dark parts.  And the skin was super crispy (but that’s likely from the butter).

Once you try a Browder Bird, you’ll have a hard time buying that $1.99/lb chicken again.  Fortunately, if you’re in NYC, you can get one while available at Eli’s…  If you live outside the area, I encourage you to support the local farmers in your area that are trying to raise a better bird.

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