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French Standards for Raising Bresse Meat Chickens

Discussion in 'Meat Birds ETC' started by chickenlady1957, Mar 24, 2014.

  1. chickenlady1957

    chickenlady1957 Hatching

    Mar 24, 2014
    Gentry, TN

    The flavor of a Bresse chicken is not just the breed, but is based on how you raise them.

    From what I found on the internet, here are the French Standards for raising them:


    First Description:

    1. Use only Bresse Stock

    2. 35 days before out to pasture.
    They are fed a wholemeal feed with no bone meal or GM cereals until they are five weeks old.
    At five weeks, regardless of the weather conditions, the fowl are moved to an enclosed
    plot of grass as stipulated in the specifications.
    Afterwards, the feed is based on corn from the farm and wheat.
    Add some goat’s milk, more digestible than cow’s milk, but not as expensive and rare as mare’s milk.
    The fattening process is completed with corn flour and occasionally some cooked rice once they are in wooden cage.

    3. Grass - 5,000 square meters (53,819 sf, or 1.24 acres) per flock,
    with at least 10 square meters (108 sf) per bird.

    4. No more than 500 birds in a flock.

    5. Male birds are caponized. male castrated at 6/8 weeks to develop muscular mass.
    fattened hens (20-week old virgin females)

    6. Pastures lay fallow after 2 successive flocks of Bresse chickens.

    7. While free ranging, Bresse are given a low-protein whole-grain
    supplement to encourage them to find insects to boost their protein intake.

    8a. After an initial period of at least 35 days, the birds are raised on a grassy pasture of
    some 5,000 square meters (minimum), which provides their primary food,
    supplemented by local cereals (maize and wheat) and skimmed milk for a
    period of:

    9 weeks in the case of young chickens,

    11 weeks for hens, and

    23 weeks for capons.

    The chickens are intentionally given insufficient feed so that they have to supplement their
    diet by scratching for insects, worms or snails.

    8b. At four months for hens and at eight months for capons, the birds are placed in wooden cages
    in a shaded barn where they are fed a diet of grains and milk.
    Fresh from building lean muscle in the fields, in the barn the birds gorge on
    the milk and grain concoction; fat infiltrates the muscle and marbles the meat.
    After a few weeks of fattening they are ready for slaughter.

    9. After the Bresse are slaughtered the carcasses are usually plucked clean
    but the feathers are left undisturbed on the head and neck.
    The characteristic steel-blue legs are also almost always left intact.
    This provides consumers visual confirmation that they are buying authentic Bresse.
    The birds are also banded to identify their gender and labeled with the name of the
    farmer who raised them and the identity of the processing plant.

    10. Importantly, the newly processed Bresse carcasses are air chilled, not water chilled.
    Air chilling serves the purpose of cooling and preserving the carcass without allowing
    water to dilute the dense flavor of the meat or change its texture.
    Bresse flesh has a rich pink glow accented with bright yellow fat.

    Poulet - fattened 2 weeks, slaughtered at 4 months, weighs 1.2 kilos (all minimums)
    Poularde - fattened 4 weeks, slaughtered at 5 months, weighs 1.8 kilos (all minimums)
    Capons - fattened 4 weeks, slaughtered at 8 months, weighs 3 kilos (all minimums)
    Are always sold with heads and feet attached.
    Hang the carcass in linen sacks that have been soaked in milk. Put in a cool place.
    Only the intestines were removed.
    Carcasses were tightly wrapped in tissue, like a mummy, so that no air can get to it.
    Could be stored for as long as 6 weeks in cold places.
    Do not know if tissues were soaked in milk. The ferments from the milk could enter the chicken's fat.
    When roasted, the fat layer would melt and make the meat very tender.
    They used mare's milk, but goat or sheep could work.

    Another Description of the process...

    1. After an initial period of at least 35 days, the birds are raised on a grassy pasture
    of some 5,000 square meters (minimum), which provides their primary food,
    supplemented by local cereals (maize and wheat) and skimmed milk for a
    period of 9 weeks in the case of young chickens, 11 weeks for hens, and
    23 weeks for capons. The chickens are intentionally given insufficient feed so
    that they have to supplement their diet by scratching for insects, worms or snails.
    Each chicken must have a minimum of 10 square meters of space and a single flock cannot exceed 500 birds.

    2. The final phase of the growing process is done in wooden coops in a dim, calm,
    and well-ventilated structure. The chickens are cooped up for 8 to 15 days, and
    capons and poulards for 4 weeks. It was, for a while at least, a life of luxury.

    Started in February-March, the capons (most fattened) are slaughtered Christmas and New Year end festivities.
    This period is four months minimum for chickens, and five months for fattened hens.
    All Bresse chicken breeders cannot do other poultry species.
    All fine poultry must be presented wrapped, i.e. surrounded by a clean cloth (linen or cotton).
    The purpose is to spread the fowl’s fatty layer all over the limbs in an oblong shape and bring
    out the grain of the skin.
    In the old days, this practice helped preserve it, (8 days at 17°C), when there were no cold rooms.
    Today, it can be kept for over 15 days in a cold room.
    Every Bresse chicken is displayed with some of its feathers to certify its origin.
    Bresse chicken is rather like the Rolls Royce of poultry.
    They should be prepared as simply as possible if you want to fully appreciate the flavour.

    A More Formal Description...

    The first two conditions required are a defined geographical area namely the Bresse region
    (including most of the Ain and Saône-et-Loire administrative districts) and a
    defined chicken breed in this case the Bresse breed with white plumage blue shanks
    single comb red wattles white earlobes and white skin (Figure 1). The occurrence of
    blue shanks is determined by a single sex-linked recessive gene called ID and the
    association of white plumage and blue shanks is rare among French poultry breeds (Periquet 1994).
    After an initial starting period of 5 weeks a fixed set of growing conditions
    (density open-air access type of feed) must applied for at least 9 weeks.
    The finishing period has to take place in a specific housing system (an épinette)
    using a specific feed including milk for at least 8 days for males and 4 weeks for
    fattened pullets and capons. Specific regulations also apply to slaughtering and processing of the carcass.
    The age at slaughter of Bresse chickens must be at least 112 days and up to about 150 days.
    In comparison the strains used for LB or SB production are slaughtered between 81 and 110 days
    of age or at around 39 days of age respectively.
    The minimum live weight at departure for the slaughter house is 1.5 kg for male Bresse chickens
    whereas the average reaches 2.25 kg for LB and 1.9 kg for SB. A minimum carcass weight is fixed
    for Bresse chickens: 1.2 1.8 and 3.0 kg for males females and capons respectively. From the
    view point of economic profitability slow-growing chickens are not as efficient as standard
    broilers with regard to food conversion and stocking density. These extra costs have to be
    accepted by consumers who are ready to pay more for a product of higher quality. The reference
    product for prices is the whole chicken ready to be cooked (PAC). In 2002 the average price
    paid to Bresse producers was 4.0 Euros per PAC kg which provided a gross profit of 2.6 Euros
    per chicken sold (source: CIVB). On the other hand in the national wholesale market in Rungis
    (close to Paris) the average price was equal to 2.7 and 1.6 Euros per PAC kg for label.
    and standard chicken respectively (source: OFIVAL).

    Here is an interview with a Bresse Chicken Farmer in France:



    If you have updates or additions to this information, I would like to hear it.

    eggup likes this.

  2. Bossroo

    Bossroo Songster

    Jun 15, 2008
    SHOOOOOT ! Well that kills that idea for ME ! ... I have 20 acres in Central Cal. ... the only green grass starts to grow in mid-late Dec. and lasts maybe until early April. The rest of the year it is all brown and dead. Irrigation water is next to impossible to obtain as the bleeding hearts had a law passed to restore the Salmon run on the San Juaquin River which has been dry for over 70+ years. What little water is available is used by the Cities and high value row crops at a very high price. As for bugs, we have huge numbers of stink bugs and ANTS, which the chickens will NOT eat, and a few grasshoppers. So, the chickens would be hard presses to put on weight from that protein source. . As for pasturing poultry, we have WAY TO MANY PREDATORS to even consider it. Also there is the small matter of cost of labor involved for the recommended procedure . So, For my very tender chicken dinner, I think that I will stick with the Cornish X and process them at 35 days of age for a nice and tender "Cornish Game Hen ". [​IMG]
  3. chickenlady1957

    chickenlady1957 Hatching

    Mar 24, 2014
    Gentry, TN
    Maybe add some hay for forage. I saw one person on YouTube that was composting a huge pile, and the chickens were scratching out and eating the worms and other things from the large compost bin. He said he did not need to purchase grain at all.

    My grain feed price is killing me, using grass or compost sounds good. Also, I have a friend that pours his excess milk from his cow over his scratch feed to encourage layers.

    The French Standard for Bresse is probably the highest in the world, so getting there tomorrow won't happen for anyone immediately.

    But, the Bresse Standard for air chilling over water chilling sounds good. I have an idea about air chilling the birds at slaughter, using blocks of ice, a fan, a large freezer box, and pipes that blow the chilled air first inside the bird's cavity. It makes a lot of sense that the water chilling is part of the problem of less taste. I think "Smart Chicken" in Arizona is the only producer that uses air chilling in the USA. I may just put my birds into plastic bags and chill them in the ice water that way, but I don't know if that will get them cold quickly enough.
  4. Raisingmsdaisy

    Raisingmsdaisy In the Brooder

    May 11, 2016
    NoCo Colorado
    I just bought a dozen White Bresse chicks. I plan to select the best quality males and females for my breeders, then process the rest of them.
    I looked at the standards and agree it will take a long time to actually get a standard like that into practice. In the meantime, I will be pasture raising them generally and will likely coop them up a few weeks prior to processing the others. I am not trying to duplicate the standards but I do want to raise quality dual purpose meat and egg layers that I can repopulate in house. I am very excited about raising these birds!
  5. Glenda Heywoodo

    Glenda Heywoodo Songster

    Dec 19, 2016
    Cassville Missouri
    Sorry for caps I did not know they were on.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2017

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