By Kalah Amash – Collegiate Staff
After many health scares, people are starting to be more and more conscious when it comes to consuming chicken.
Many of the growing concerns about chicken have to do with where it comes from and what is being put into it. Some Grand Rapids meat markets and restaurants are starting to adapt to the natural chicken trend.
Montello Meat Market, located in the Downtown Market on 435 Ionia Ave SW, is all about providing high quality meats. A family-owned, full service retail butcher shop, most of their chickens are raised on local farms.
According to Sam Larson, Executive Butcher at Montello, their chickens are raised in Lawton, Michigan and butchered in Holland. Staying local ensures that the meat is all natural, free of hormones, antibiotics, gases and dyes. This is crucial at Montello, not only for the health of its consumers, but also for the well being of the environment.
“Nathan at Lily Hill (in Lawton) raises his chickens entirely on pasture, foraging for their food with minimal feed supplementation,” Larson said.
In order to meet customer demands for boneless, skinless chicken breasts, Montello uses a larger-scale producer out of North Carolina.
“Our chicken breast supplier, being built for volume, does raise exclusively indoors (albeit cage-free) and, by law, raises their birds free of growth hormones,” Larson said. “The breasts are then shipped free of preservative solutions or pumped with any ‘flavor enhancing’ chemicals.”
All of Montello’s frozen meats are vacuum-sealed without any injected gases. This allows for items to thaw faster and eliminates the chance of freezer burn for the freshest product.
Montello encourages customers to ask where their chicken and other meats come from and how it’s raised.
“There are many components to purchasing the “right” piece of meat,” Larson said. “I suggest starting locally. Find a local butcher shop or store and ask for locally produced product. Then find out what processes the farms are using, and why in order to encourage industry best practice. As for restaurants? Always ask. If a kitchen is unwilling to answer where their product comes from, be wary about purchasing it.”
Local restaurants are also adapting to changing consumer wants for natural chicken. The Electric Cheetah, located at 1015 Wealthy St SE in Grand Rapids is known for its food being fresh, and made with natural ingredients.
“Specialty whole chickens for lunch and dinner items come locally from Otto’s farm,” said Mike Maher, Electric Cheetah General Manager.
Otto’s Chicken farm in Middleville, Michigan raises hormone and antibiotic-free chicken.
“Our day-to-day chicken comes from supplier Sysco and is USDA inspected, all-natural without growth hormones,” Maher said. “All chicken is marinated and is cooked to order for freshness.”
Patatas, located in Winchester Alley, in the basement of Grand Rapids Community College, takes caution when ordering chicken. They use all white meat skinless chicken breasts from Gordon Foods.
“To me, it’s the best and the healthiest,” said Avery Sedore, owner of Patatas. “It’s pre-cooked, seasoned, shredded, flash-frozen and sent.”
Sedore understands safe eating and cares about the quality of food students and staff are consuming.
Natural chicken is a part of the chicken market. However, many brands can claim to be natural but aren’t because of the lack of regulations required. Becoming organic-certified can become too costly and lengthy for farmers and distributors. Despite this, there are many farms and distributors whose chicken is technically organic, but with natural certifications.
Other Grand Rapids restaurants such as Grove, The Green Well Gastro Pub, Marie Catrib’s, and The Green Restaurant serve natural chicken and other meats. Heffron Farms, Grand Butchers, and Nourish Organic Market & Deli are meat markets and butcheries bringing natural meats to the community.