A chicken allowed to consume a natural chicken diet has a more balanced ratio of omega-6 fat to omega-3 fat and the chickens themselves are leaner because they get to exercise. Homegrown chicken has a much firmer flesh than CAFO chicken...
What about Organic? It doesn't matter whether the chicken ate organic food or not, if the organic chicken lived indoors and did not have access to pasture then it will never ever be as healthy as a non-organic pastured chicken
Is free-range chicken just as good as pastured chicken? It depends. Some larger poultry houses claim the chickens are "free-range" because they are on the dirt floor of a barn, and can wander around.
We "free-range" our chickens - this means we let them out every day to forage as they wish. They have no pen confining them. I prefer to call them "Homegrown Chicken".
Pastured poultry are chickens in small 10x20 sized pens that are moved several times a day and are able to eat the grass.
Are vegetarian chickens healthy? No.Chickens are not supposed to be vegetarians. This simply means that the grain given to the chickens did not contain any "chicken parts". Chickens naturally go after bugs, slugs, worms, flies, maggots and all palatable bugs. This is what chickens were meant to do. Any deviant diet from the natural chicken diet is not going result in the healthiest chicken.
The chicken that you buy in the store come from CAFO's (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation). The chicken is in tight confinement, fed copious amounts of feed with antibiotics to ward off the disease which is common, and hormones for rapid growth. This also keeps YOUR cost down, but they aren't healthy birds to eat...Here is a link to a good explanation of CAFO chicken farms
Homegrown chicken is somewhat time expensive to raise. And any farmer raising chicken for the health benefits, deserve the price they ask for.
Here are some recipes:
Free-Range Chicken in Vinegar Lyon-style
Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, 2003
1 free-range chicken or fryer, 3 1/2 to 4 pounds, cut into 8 pieces, rinsed and patted dry
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 cup good-quality white wine vinegar
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, about 1 cup
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or heavy cream
Chopped parsley, garnish
Season the chicken evenly on both sides with the salt and pepper.
In a large Dutch oven, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter with the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and garlic cloves and cook until the chicken is well browned, turning once, about 8 to 10 minutes per side. Add the vinegar and stir to loosen any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes, cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the chicken is tender, about 25 minutes. Transfer the chicken pieces to a warmed platter and cover to keep warm.
Add the chicken stock to the pot and bring to a boil, scraping any browned bits that cling to the sides or bottom of the pan. Cook until the sauce is reduced by 1/3 in volume, about 10 minutes. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve and return to the pan, discarding the solids. Reduce the heat to low. Add the remaining butter, a piece at a time, whisking constantly until all the butter has been added and the sauce is smooth and thick. Do not allow the sauce to boil and remove from the heat as necessary to prevent from breaking. Add the creme fraiche and whisk to combine. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
Ladle the sauce over the chicken and garnish with the parsley.