Friday, September 30, 2011

Experiment - 1: Chicken Breasts

The past couple of weekends I have been busy cooking some recipes from  my colleagues to make original pictures for a charity cookbook. Today I was making Stefan´s (Mom´s) chicken recipe. Buying the ingredients an idea hit me and I decided to test if there was any difference between cheap and expensive. I had a choice of three different types of chicken breasts: a budget or value line version (did not check the origin, but assume it was imported meat), a "Classic" version in the middle price range (import from Hungary and 41% more expensive than value line) and a local Swiss version which was the most expensive, 55% more expensive than the middle price option. The lable of the latter did mention that it was from a farmer X, but did not explicitly say that the meat was freerange or Bio. I did not see any Bio-product.
My experiment continued on a culinary level.
Appearance: Other than the fact that the medium price range breasts were a little smaller there was no significant difference. It can well be that I chose a smaller packet with smaller pieces. Therefore I don´t consider the size a deficiency in the raw meat.I consider it a draw, 1:1.
I continued with the recipe. I decided to cook both meats exactly in the same way.
Braised the chicken breasts, cut the vegetables and sauteed them in another pan, made the sauce with cream, seasoned with salt, pepper and spicy paprika, then everything into a gratin pan and into the oven.
After about 45 minutes all prep was done, the chicken was out of the oven and I was arranging the food for the picture. Finally it was time to sit and eat. I was very excited and to be perfectly honest I was expecting to taste no difference at all.
Texture: The first bite of the cheaper meat was full of flavour of the sauce and chicken...but it was a bit dry and the bite a bit hard to my disappointment. OK, let´s try the other more expensive one. And next I was eating a strong texture...but much more tender. 2:1 for the more expensive chicken.
Next up was taste: Both had a good chicken taste and an equally creamy and seasoned taste of the dish. 3:2.
In conclusion: The overall experience was better with the more expensive chicken, however one data point is not enough to have a convincing conclusion from the culinary side.
Of course if you add to the equasion the long haul and more diesel required to transport the imported meat to the consumer one could argue on the sustainability front as well and the score would rise to 4:2 for the more expensive breast.
I might just try out the budget version out of culinary interest, but I guess on the sustainability level that probably loses out.
More expensive local chicken on the left, mid price range import on the right