The question haunts me once I get to the grocery store. Now that there are so many options for buying organic food products, and often you can find them displayed side-by-side, which do you chose? Regular lemons, or organic lemons? Regular garlic, or organic garlic? Regular butter, or a smaller, more expensive, organic butter packet?
But really, it’s about flavour, right? And how much more flavour does organic have?
I decided to test this out myself. By roasting two chickens, at the same time, one prepared using organic products, and one “regular” supermarket chicken.
The Organic Chicken: was rubbed with organic butter, stuffed with organic lemons and organic garlic. I also put garlic and butter under the skin, and used Himalayan pink sea salts to season.
The Regular Chicken: was rubbed with regular butter, stuffed with a regular lemon and garlic. I also put garlic and butter under its skin, and used regular table salt to season it.
There were some minor differences from the get-go:
1. The Regular chicken’s skin was really tough and leathery compared to the Organic. When I washed them both, the Organic chicken felt more like….a real thing, because its skin was almost human to the touch. You might notice in the photos that the skin on the breast of the organic chicken tore a bit, and that’s because it was so delicate.
2. Price, obviously. The Regular Loblaws chicken cost $11.27 and it was a bit smaller.
The Organic, Blue Goose chicken cost $18.56 and it was a tiny bit larger.
3. Organic butter seems a bit richer, it’s got a yellow hue to it that the regular butter doesn’t have.
4.Organic products come in large numbers at Loblaws. The garlic was pre-packaged and you had to buy two at $2.99, the lemons as well, a bag for $4.99. I don’t find this to be a problem but I wonder if we’ll be able buy single, loose organic in the future…? Some people have commitment issues, you know.
After scribbling anthropological chicken musings for a while, finally, the birds were ready for the oven.
The way to test out whether the flavour was impacted by organic ingredients was to make it a BLIND taste test.
Except I made one crucial mistake in the cooking process.
By putting the Organic chicken in a contained bowl, it got to marinade it its own juices during the entire cooking process. I realized this was an unfair advantage, simply because you could tell which bird was juicier once you cut into it. The Regular chicken was a dry piece of cardboard in comparison–never had a chance, poor girl.
But anyway, we proceeded. I stood in the living room while both chickens were carved. I received a plate with two piles of breast and drumstick meats, and picked at both trying to distinguish which was organic, and which was not.
Organic wins!! And we could tell right away which was which. Mostly because of my little cooking container mishap, which made it visibly juicier. I also thought it caught the flavours of lemon and garlic better, so it tasted like it was seasoned well. It had a delicate, juicy, lemony taste to it. The skin also crisped up nicely–thin and crackly. Delicious.
However, the Regular chicken was good too. I don’t think it caught much of the seasoning or flavour from the lemons and garlic. You couldn’t taste it in the meat. The skin was a bit thicker too, something I had noticed in the beginning of our experiment. When it crisped up, it was so thick and leathery to chew on, like chicken skin jerky or something. But you know what? Chicken is chicken, I woulda been happy with the Regular any day of the week.
My real conclusion is: yes, it makes a difference whether you use organic ingredients or not. But not enough that the average person would notice it. In fact, if anything can be learned from my experiment, it’s that it makes a difference how you cook it and leaving the chicken in it’s own juices was a good idea.
I ate the Organic thinking, “This is how a roast chicken should be eaten”, but in my everyday life, I wouldn’t spend the money on it. I think I’ll reserve the Organic chicken for special occasions.