I’ve started seeing guinea fowl featured more-and-more in mainstream supermarkets. This is an extraordinary food bird, very high in protein, low in fat (similar to turkey), and usually raised free-range and without antibiotics. It has a high meat-to-bone ratio, making it good value with respect to other high quality organic meats (although about 4 times the price of factory chickens).
Guinea fowl has been a favorite at organic farmer’s markets for some time, probably because it can be produced legally in jurisdictions with strict control over poultry quotas. Turkeys, for example, are tightly controlled and our organic farmer received a very steep fine in the many thousands of dollars for overproducing organic turkeys by 5-6 birds on a flock of 100 for which he had been licensed.
We started eating guinea fowl instead of chicken last year. It started from a desire to support the local farmer at our organic market, but after the first bird we were absolutely sold on the intense flavor. All the meat on this bird is like eating dark meat on a chicken; moist, rich, and satisfying. Since we always make stock from the bones, we found that the resulting broth was also much tastier than regular chicken broth. Used in a risotto or soup, it produces a much more flavorful base that ultimately results in a more rewarding dish.
As I said, these are very lean birds and must be slow cooked for 3-4 hours at very low heat (250F) in a covered Dutch oven in order to ensure fall-off-the-bone tenderness.
Since the birds we buy are raised outside, their production is limited from Spring to Fall. It helps to have a freezer, and we buy 10 at a time, loading up on the last order for the Winter. If you’ve never tried one, give it a go….you won’t regret it.
Funny enough, I’m reading Michael Pollan’s new “mini book”, Food Rules, a distillation of the wisdom in his In Defense of Food, in the form of 64 “rules” for better eating. Number 44: Pay More…Eat Less is strangely reminiscent of The Kommandant’s motto: Eat Better…Eat Less. We’ve certainly got the “better” part down pat…the “less” part is still a struggle!