The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Cornish Cross taste test

Cornish Cross

Our Cornish Cross chickens are clocking in at a dressed weight of around 3.9 pounds at six weeks of age, which is the youngest you'd want to slaughter even these ultra-speedy hybrids.  We could expect our broilers to perhaps double in size if we let them grow out another month, but, to be honest, Mark and I are heartily sick of Cornish Cross and don't want to risk dealing with the health problems that crop up as the birds get even bigger.  Since the six-week-old dressed weight of Cornish Cross is already twice what we get out of twelve-week-old Australorps, we decided to slaughter at the youngest age possible and move on to birds we enjoy more.

Weighing a chicken

As I butchered the Cornish Cross carcasses, I could tell they were a very different bird than we're used to, and not just because of their heavy weight, small legs, and big breasts.  With Australorps, I'm used to seeing minimal fat, but what fat is present is richly yellow due to their pastured diet.  Despite the fact that our Cornish Cross had access to just as much pasture as our other chickens do, their fat was a very pale cream color, and there was much more fat present.  In retrospect, I think the only real way to get much pasture at all into lazy Cornish Cross is to use Salatin-style chicken tractors, and I'm sure even that would only result in a fraction of the nutritional quality of the meat that we get out of our Australorps.

Roast chicken

But what about flavor?  I brined and then roasted up a broiler twenty-four hours after slaughtering and was pleasantly surprised to find that the taste of a homegrown bird is superior to that of a supermarket chicken.  On the other hand, the Cornish Cross didn't hold a candle to the Australorp broilers we're used to (although the former does have meat that's less tough than the latter, due to the older age of our heirloom broilers).

In the end, we concluded that Cornish Cross broilers are slightly cheaper to raise per pound than Australorps are, have carcasses that are more familiar to the mainstream American, and are ultra-speedy.  But we're willing to put in more time and a bit more money for healthier and tastier meat, so we'll go back to our heirloom breed "at least for another ten years until we forget what Cornish Cross are like," says Mark.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Thanks for the comprehensive review of the Cornish! I've wondered how they compare to homegrown and store-bought birds. On another note, not long ago you pondered which gender of chicks it is that engages in the chest-bumping semi-aggression...I have some probably-pure-bred Creme Legbars, which can be sexed by color from day one. It looks like the males and females both engage in this behavior (age at start was about 3 weeks), but the males are much more into it than are the females, at least for this brood/this breed.

Comment by jen g Mon Jun 9 15:17:09 2014

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