Cracklin’ Chicken

Winner, winner, chicken dinner.


That tends to be the default on a Tuesday night, but do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the options at the grocery store? Isn’t chicken just chicken?


Unfortunately not.


Here are official definitions from the USDA.

Organic – Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods. These methods integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.

Free-range – This label indicates that the flock was provided shelter in a building, room, or area with unlimited access to food, fresh water, and continuous access to the outdoors during their production cycle. The outdoor area may or may not be fenced and/or covered with netting-like material. This label is regulated by the USDA.

Cage-free – This label indicates that the flock was able to freely roam a building, room, or enclosed area with unlimited access to food and fresh water during their production cycle.

Natural – As required by USDA, meat, poultry, and egg products labeled as “natural” must be minimally processed and contain no artificial ingredients. However, the natural label does not include any standards regarding farm practices and only applies to processing of meat and egg products. There are no standards or regulations for the labeling of natural food products if they do not contain meat or eggs.

Grass-fed – Grass-fed animals receive a majority of their nutrients from grass throughout their life, while organic animals’ pasture diet may be supplemented with grain. Also USDA regulated, the grass-fed label does not limit the use of antibiotics, hormones, or pesticides. Meat products may be labeled as grass-fed organic.

Pasture-raised – Due to the number of variables involved in pasture-raised agricultural systems, the USDA has not developed a federal definition for pasture-raised products.

Humane – Multiple labeling programs make claims that animals were treated humanely during the production cycle, but the verification of these claims varies widely. These labeling programs are not regulated under a single USDA definition.

No added hormones – A similar claim includes “Raised without Hormones.” Federal regulations have never permitted hormones or steroids in poultry, pork, or goat.


So is it all worth the extra cost? Well in my opinion, maybe that’s the wrong question to be asking. Buying organic and local encourages sustainability, prosperity and quality in our food supply chain. To me, that’s worth every penny (difference averages only $1.19 per pound). Ok, so here’s a recipe for that chicken…


Cracklin’ Chicken

From Nom Nom Paleo

Serves 4


8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (approximately 4 pounds)

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons ghee (clarified butter)

2 teaspoons seasoning blend of choice (optional)


1. Flatten the chicken with a meat pounder (or cut a gash in the thickest part of each thigh piece with your scissors) to ensure uniform cooking.

2. Turn the chicken skin-side-up, and sprinkle salt on the skin from way up high, like it’s snowing. That way, the skin will be seasoned evenly.

3. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Melt the ghee in the pan and place four chicken thighs skin-side down in the hot pan.

4. Season the meat side with your favorite seasoning blend.

5. Let the skin fry undisturbed until crispy and golden brown (around 7-10 minutes), rotating the pan 90 degrees at the halfway point to make sure the heat from the burner is uniformly distributed.

6. Flip the chicken and cook for 3 more minutes or until cooked through.

7. Transfer the chicken to a wire rack and rest ’em for 5 minutes.

8. Repeat the steps above with the four remaining thighs. When you’re ready to eat, slice them up and dig in!

“Respect your efforts, respect yourself.  Self-respect leads to self-discipline.  When you have both firmly under your belt, that’s real power. “

-Clint Eastwood





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