Behind the French Menu
Last updated April 2017
Chapons Label Rouge de Challans
Capons from the commune of Challans in the department of Vendée,
in the region of Pays de la Loire.N.B. A capon is a castrated rooster/cockerel that in sixteen or so weeks a large, 3-4 kilo, tasty, chicken with buttery, and tender meat. Many families choose a capon over a turkey for family celebrations.
Label Rouge French chickens and other French poultry hold the World Cup for taste.
When a Frenchman or woman suggests you order chicken or other poultry in France they are doing it for a good reason. France’s Label Rouge, red label, poultry have a totally different taste, “forget about it;” these chickens, capons, guinea hen, ducks. and turkeys taste like something! No other country invests so much time in raising tasty free-range poultry. These birds are free-range for 90% of their lives and you can taste the difference.
France’s diners know all about the tasteless factory raised chickens and some 25% of the population have chosen to refuse those birds. The 25% who buy Label Rouge free-range poultry know they are paying more 50% more than the price of the other poultry in the supermarket. Good restaurants only serve Label Rouge poultry. If you are looking for chicken, capons, Guinea fowl etc; then look for a restaurant with label rouge on the menu.
The Label Rouge logo.
There are some 30 groups of farmers, from different parts of France, who raise Label Rouge poultry. These farmers co-operate to keep their brand and their unique and very tasty birds in the public eye and on the table. As soon as the birds are old enough they spend the whole day outside the poultry house in forests and/or pastures as free-range birds, except for a two-week period when they are allowed to be caged and fattened before going to market. When outside in the fields or forests these birds have at least 5,000 square meters for no more than 500 birds.
Included in the Label Rouge regulations are the instructions on how the birds are cared for and, at the end, there also is a taste test. For chickens, ducks and turkeys these pampered birds that come from different breeds. They are very different to the breeds raised in factory farms and they take twice as long to grow before they are sold. Most of these farms allow the public to visit. Label Rouge poultry is really free-range poultry.
Label Rouge poultry on French menu:
Poulet Fermier Roti de Bourgogne Label Rouge, Servi Avec Gratin Dauphinois – Roasted, farm-raised Label Rouge chicken from Burgundy, served with Dauphine potatoes. Dauphine potatoes are mashed potatoes mixed with choux pastry, shaped into balls or other shapes, breaded and deep-fried.
Suprême de Pintade Fermière d’Auvergne Label Rouge Crème d’Oignons de Gannat – Breast of farm-raised Label Rouge Guinea fowl from the Auvergne in the North-East of France. (Since 1-1-2015 the Auvergne has been joined with the Rhône-Alpes as the new super region of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes), Here the Guinea fowl is served with a creamy onion sauce from the onions of Gannat. Gannat is a commune in the department of Allie in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. These highly rated Auvergne -Rhone-Alps onions are grown around the commune of Gannat. They are called the Oignons Doux du Bourbonnais, the sweet onions of the Bourbonnais. Bourbonnais was a historic province that includes the modern department of Allier, along with part of the department of Cher. The area gave its name to the Bourbon Kings of France. the most famous sweet onions in France are the Oignon Doux des Cévennes AOP – The Sweet Cévennes Onion AOP
A Label Rouge Guinea hen from the department of Ardèche,
in the Rhône-Alpes
Gigolette de Poulet Label Rouge en Farce fine, Jus Corsé au Bergerac – The leg and thigh of a Label Rouge chicken prepared with a stuffing that includes the chicken liver. The dish here is served with the natural cooking juices flavored with Bergerac wine. A fine farce stuffing for poultry always includes chicken liver but the final recipe for the stuffing will vary with the chef.
A Label Rouge Chicken from Loue.
Rôti de Chapon Label Rouge Coulis de Marrons au Grand Marnier – Roasted Label Rouge capon served with a puree of chestnuts flavored with Grand Marnier, the orange flavored liquor.
Volatile Fermière Label Rouge au Vin Jaune du Jura et Morilles – A farm-raised label rouge chicken prepared with the yellow wine from the Jura and wild morel mushrooms. The sweet yellow wine from the Jura in the region of Franche-Comté is one of the department’s two most famous wines, the other is the Jura’s Vin de Paille.
Each group of Label Rouge farmers comes from a different area of France. The poultry they raise has continual inspections that allow the consumer to know how the birds are raised. The consumer also knows what the birds are fed with and that growth hormones and antibiotics are never used. The inspections make sure that their feed, except what they dig up themselves when outside contains no animal products. Their feed is 100% vegetable, except for some milk products which supplements what they find outside. Many of the farmers raise the corn and other food products for the poultry themselves.
Some farms raise organic poultry and eggs and that adds the letters AB to their labels as well as increasing the price. The government controlled AB stands for Agriculture Biologique, Organic farming. The AB is the most trusted organic marking.
Oeufs de Loué AB
Organic eggs from Loué in the department of Sarthe
in the region of Pays-de-la-Loire.
There is one chicken, one capon and one turkey that have reached higher standards than those offered by Label Rouge, these are the Volaille de Bress AOC/AOP, the poultry from Bresse AOP. These are most famous, tastiest, and expensive poultry that may be found in a French butchers shop or on a French menu. The poultry farmers of Bresse raise some unique chickens, capons, and turkeys. You may find Label Rouge poultry on the menu at an upper scale butcher or restaurant in the UK but for any of the poultry from Bresse you will have to come to France, very very little is exported,
The white feathered and blue legged Bresse AOP chicken.
These birds are all raised in the old province of Bresse, the area today includes part of the départements of Jura and Saône-et-Loire in the new super region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté and Ain in the Auvergne -Rhone-Alps.
The AOP logo…
The Dinde de Bresse AOC/AOP; the Bresse turkeys are not the largest turkeys but they are the tastiest. The Dinde de Bresse AOC are mostly seen on restaurant menus and in butcher’s shops for a short period during the Easter and Christmas seasons. They are sold when they weigh anywhere from 3 –5 kilos (5.5 -11lbs) for hens and up to 8 kilos (17lbs) for turkey-cocks. These are the elite turkeys of France; the French gourmand’s choice for his or her Christmas dinner. If you want one you had better order it a few months in advance,
Bresse poultry may be on your menu:
Poulet de Bresse en Croûte de Pain d’Épices, Crème de Cassis et Bonbons de Pommes de Terre – A Bresse chicken baked inside a covering of ginger bread and served with a black currant sauce and balls of mashed potatoes.
Chapon de Bresse AOP
Chapon de Bresse en Deux Cuissons, Lasagnes de Choux aux Châtaignes, Jus Truffé.
The Bress capon cooked in two different ways and served with lasagna made with cabbage and chestnuts and flavored with truffle juice
Photograph courtesy of Inspirational Food
The area of Bresse.
Bresse is a wonderful place to visit with many beautiful villages and wonderful countryside. If you plan your trip well, you will be crossing quite a few routes de vin, wine trails, and passing many restaurants where you may stop to enjoy these tasty birds.
To assist in the promotion of all these famous birds there is a Confrérie, a brotherhood, and sisterhood, the Confrérie des Poulardiers de Bresse, The Brotherhood and sisterhood of the Poultry farmers of Bresse. The 2,000 or so members, from all over France and around the world bear the heavy responsibility of defending the freedom of our tables from tasteless copies.
If you are going to be in the area of Bresse in mid– December, check ahead and see which towns are having special events at the dinner table. This is when the Confrérie, have competitions for the best poultry and, of course, turkeys in the towns of Bourg-en-Bresse, Pont-de-Vaux, and Montrevel-en-Bresse in the department of Ain and in the town of Louhans-Chateaurenard, Saône-et-Loire in Burgundy.