In France’s animal kingdom, what could be more patriotic than a red, white and blue chicken? It is as if the farmers from the east of the country had created a bird simply to bear the tricolore.
This month, as many of us tuck into goose or turkey, the humble chicken is celebrated in the former province of Bresse – except that the local chicken is anything but humble.
The poulet de Bresse is the only chicken to enjoy the prestigious appellation d’origine contrôlée status. It is recognised for its rich flavour and thin and unfatty skin.
Certified birds must be from the Bresse de Bény variety of chickens. They have a red crest, white body and slate blue legs.
They are reared outdoors for several months, and fed cereals and dairy. They must forage for extra protein. In their final weeks, the birds are moved indoors for more intensive feeding.
This month, the birds will be celebrated in a four-part festival, which takes places first in Louhans, then Montrevel-en-Bresse, Bourg-en-Bresse and, finally, Pont-deVaux. A competition, known as the Glorieuses de Bresse, will decide the best bird from the area.
“Certified birds must be from the Bresse de Bény variety of chickens. They have a red crest, white body and slate blue legs”
Just over a million of the variety are produced each year – around a 1,000th of France’s total production of chickens. As such, they command high prices. In London, a bird would be likely to set you back a good £20.
So, if you are offered chicken on Christmas Day, check the colour of the legs before you turn your nose up at it.