The concept of eating country chicken (Natu Kodi) gained prominence during the Sankranti festival going by the sales across the coastal Andhra Pradesh. This happened due to chefs, nutritionists and food activists are all rooting for #eatlocal. In Visakhapatnam, most people determined relish country chicken in homes and restaurants.
While the broiler chicken prices in Vizag nosedived to Rs. 150 from Rs.200 due to bird flu whereas country chicken prices hovered between Rs 600 to Rs 900 per kilo on Wednesday. Meat traders in Vizag said “Country chicken is the future. Consumers are more aware and prefer to have meats that are naturally-fed, reared, or grown. Our orders these days are specific; customers ask for smaller birds (that means it is not overfed artificially).”
Swami Naidu, a meat trader from Sabbavaram said “These chickens are not the regular white-feathered ones seen in cages at meat shops. Country chicken has feathers in different colors, and mostly graze in the open. The meat is slightly tougher than white poultry meat, but when cooked, is juicy and soaks in spices beautifully. Which is why, though broiler chicken is consumed in huge numbers around the country including villages, it is a tradition to treat special guests in villages to a dish made with country chicken”
According to some chefs in Vizag, during the covid-19 pandemic, there has been the brand saw a steady rise in requests for country chicken. “When we listed it on our menu, we ran out of stock within no time. If one gets the real taste of country chicken, it would be hard for them to go back to eating the broiler bird, especially in an Indian curry. At the moment our broiler to country chicken ratio is 80:20. Even though country chicken costs almost thrice the price of broiler meat, the demand is fast rising and shows a steep rise during regional festivals.”
Savitri housewife in NGGOs colony said country chicken’s slightly tougher meat, which means it takes longer to cook, made it less popular once broilers were introduced to the consumer in the early 1980s. The broiler birds were also preferred because they were economical both in terms of cost and quantity. “A country chicken yields less meat because if it is free-range, it only feeds on what it finds unlike the broiler birds whose only job is to eat within a small cage,” adds Joe. However, with this rising demand, farmers are back to rearing country chicken.
Several farmers are beginning to rear them for eggs and meat, and also to help the farm in a way. Kondal Rao, a farmer from Mangamaripeta says “Chicken help in mulching the soil, manure, and compost which in turn benefits us by improving the quality of food we plant in the soil.” He explains that it is also a more humane way to raise the birds, as opposed to the broilers who live their lives in small, stacked cages.
“This kind of rearing only makes the birds gain weight. In a way, it is forced to eat food that is made industrially. The small cage often leads to the bird getting hurt, as it cannot move.” He adds, “Country chicken is expensive when compared to broilers because they take time to grow and lay about 14 eggs a month, as against 30 eggs by the broilers.” He also suggests that, while the broiler is a cheap source of protein, customers should ideally ask for birds that are smaller and weigh less, as that means they are young and have hence been raised on less artificial feed.
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