Chefs celebrate preparing a meal of rescued roosters

Farmer Xavier Prime wows chefs and poultry enthusiasts with his western-raised roosters that would otherwise be euthanized soon after hatching.

Roosters are Prime’s solution to what has been described as the egg industry’s dirty little secret.

Crispy Skin Chicken Dish – Made with Rooster by Victor Liong at Lee Ho Fook cooks like “real” chicken. Photo: Eddie Jim

Females are bred to lay eggs, while males are macerated or gassed. Around 12 million male chicks are killed this way in Australia each year.

“I felt if I could give a few of the male chicks a meaningful existence, then I would make a change,” Prime says.

He buys day-old male chicks, raises them in a warm shed for their first six weeks, then grazes them outside. As they get older, they spend more time in sheltered enclosures, protected from foxes and eagles by Maremma dogs.

“They are beautiful birds. Their flavor is wonderfully strong.”

The birds graze on pasture and a mixture of grains and are processed as they reach sexual maturity, producing a lean but tasty carcass.

While everyday supermarket hens are slaughtered at 42 days, Prime grows its birds up to 147 days. He sells his pasture-raised birds to restaurants and farm butchers under the Chooks At The Rooke brand, named after the Cororooke district where Prime has his 50-hectare farm on which he also raises beef cattle and laying hens. with her partner Kimberley Burridge. .

“Chooks At The Rooke reminds me of chickens growing up in Brunei,” says chef Victor Liong of CBD restaurant Lee Ho Fook.

“The muscle differentiation is outstanding, the flavor mind-blowing, and their skin cooks like ‘real’ chicken.”

He prepared the Pekin duck-like birds by brining and poaching them, coating them in maltose (liquid sugar), then basting them in steaming hot oil in the wok until the skin turned golden brown, crispy and delicious.

Chef Guy Grossi of Grossi Florentino compares chooks to grouse. “They are beautiful birds. Their flavor is wonderfully strong.”

Victor Liong to Lee Ho Fook with raw cock.

Victor Liong to Lee Ho Fook with raw cock. Photo: Eddie Jim

He’s putting birds on the menu this weekend with thigh wrapped in pancetta with star anise and juniper to highlight the flavor of the game. He wastes nothing, roasting the bones into a sauce to serve with a roast brisket.

In Trentham, central Victoria, Farmer chef Annie Smithers has taken delivery of enough birds to accompany him over the next few months. “They bring back memories of chickens in France, so many flavors.” She says they are best slow-cooked over coals and will serve the coq in various soups, chasseur de coq, coq au vin and mixed with pork in terrines.

Last week, retail butcher Hagen’s Organic took its first delivery. “The reaction from the public has been remarkable,” says Blake Sebastian of Hagen.

Its staff tell customers to cook the birds differently than everyday chicken and to brine the birds before roasting them to ensure tender meat. As of this writing, inventory is low, but Hagen’s is taking forward orders.

For Prime, the response to his ethical birds has been overwhelming, and he is increasing production from a few thousand birds a year to a thousand a month. “It’s a drop in the bucket,” says Prime. “We are turning what used to be waste in the egg industry into something valuable and delicious.”

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