American Bresse Chickens: Details about Bresse Chickens in North America, an overview of the American Bresse breed, descriptions, photos, chicks, eggs, and more.
Bresse Chickens have been described as the best-tasting chicken in the world, especially in France. Terms like "the queen of poultry" and "poultry of kings" penned in the mid-19th century are a reflection of the unique richness of this breed.
Nor are they slouches regarding egg-laying. With reason they are called a dual-purpose breed.
American Bresse are a medium sized dual purpose breed. They grow very rapidly until they reach their adult weight of up to 7.5 pounds.
Additionally, the drive to forage appears to be built into their genetic code. The long-standing French practice of feeding low protein feeds has resulted in birds that forage heavily for bugs, worms, and other nutrition. Give them a pasture, and the feed bill will drop.
Meat production is where the American Bresse shine, as compared to other chicken breeds. Multiple sources describe them as "the most delicious chicken in the world"9; how do you beat that?
Two factors contribute to the heavy praise.
Fat-marbling. Preparing the bird for market in the time-tested methods utilized by French farmers before butchering (known as finishing) results in the famous, Angus-steer-like, fat-marbling throughout the meat for which the Bresse chicken is known. This is a big reason why gourmet chefs have a love affair with Bresse chickens. The fat that melts while cooking contributes to the melt-in-your mouth explosion of chicken flavor even when prepared with minimal herbs or spices.
Flavor. In the words of BresseFarms.com, American Bresse chickens have "intense flavor, leaving you begging for more." That rich flavor may be due to feeds, air-drying, fat-marbling, or possibly simply genetics. The French believe that the unique Bresse flavor results not only from genetics, but also from the terroir*- the collective physical qualities of the Bresse Valley location, and the feeds and forages that grow there.
American breeders have certainly been raising some intensely flavored and fat-marbled American Bresse chickens; perhaps the North American terroir is not too shabby?
For sheer speed of "days-to-market," I don't think any meat breed can compete with Cornish Crosses. Cornish Crosses (White Rocks crossed with Cornish) are the main commercial meat breed around the globe. They gain at least a pound a week, and are market-ready in 6 to 8 weeks flat; if you miss the target date by much, you may lose birds to sudden death. Processed, they weigh 4.5 - 7 pounds.
Freedom Rangers, another very popular meat chicken, performs a distant second to Cornish Cross. Birds are ready for market at 9-11 weeks at weights of 5-7 pounds live weight. When processed, they weigh 3.5 - 5.5 pounds.
American Bresse can't compete in speed to market of course, but I doubt you'd want them to, as they'd lose the magic of flavor and succulence. They require about 12 to 14 weeks to market, depending on whether you take the time to "finish" them or not. That is only slightly slower than the Freedom Rangers.
American Bresse chickens are also very good egg-layers, although leghorns no doubt have them beat on the numbers. What is very cool is that it is not unusual that an Am Bresse pullet would start laying her first eggs at 16-17 weeks of age. The typical egg count per season per hen is around 250, although I'm sure some hens may lay up to 280 or so.
Interestingly, white and gray American Bresse lay 2 ounce (57 gm) eggs which is a typical size, while the black and blue varieties of Am Bresse tend to lay larger eggs - around 2.5 ounces (71 gm).
Leghorns, both brown and white, are prolific egg layers, and are kept exclusively for their egg-laying capabilities. This is the breed that the big egg ranches use, and when the birds outlive their usefulness, they are trucked by the thousands over to Campbell's Chicken Soup, or another end of the road destination.
Leghorns lay upwards of 280 white eggs per season, and some may lay up to 320 eggs. The eggs typically weigh 2 ounces (57 gm).
American Bresse chickens are found in four varieties: White, gray, black and blue, including splash varieties in both black and blue.
The white American Bresse is the variety that has achieved commercial recognition in France, and is therefore more popular, imported in greater numbers, and is most common in North America.
Here is a brief description; see the standard of perfection for more detail:
Gray is actually not gray, but silver-pencilled in black on the wings, hindquarters, and tail, with the head and the front of the bird being white. The white Am Bresse description above also describes Gray American Bresse, with the exception of feather color.
Black American Bresse vary little from White American Bresse, other than color and size. They are feathered in solid black, and they are a bit smaller.
Here is a brief description; see the standard of perfection for more detail:
Blue American Bresse vary from the Black Bresse mostly in color only. Blue Am Bresse are blue from top to bottom. The head and neck feathers are a bit darker blue than body feathers, which have a somewhat laced appearance.
Legs are a truer blue/gray as opposed the the darker gray of black American Bresse chickens. In all other ways they are similar to the black variety.
American Bresse chicks of all varieties are remarkably fast-growing. They forage early and well since they have been genetically encouraged to forage heavily.
They are born with yellowish legs, which slowly take on the steel blue hue over a period of a couple weeks or so.
Well, this is a call that one must make for oneself, since the "best chicken in the world" is, for you, the breed that meets YOUR needs the best. Some breeds are excellent egg-layers, and some are great meat birds. The American Bresse chicken was clearly bred to provide the best traits of both egg-layers and meat birds.
American Bresse are:
Because of these characteristics, it may be difficult for any who need or appreciate a very good all-around chicken breed to find a more balanced or desirable breed.
Homesteaders and any who can develop a niche market for a gourmet chicken product will want to know more about American Bresse Chickens.
What do you think? Let us know!
I'd like to remind you that of their many advantages, TASTE is one of the breed's major claims to fame. I encourage you to experience the taste for yourself!
As I write this page, there is an American Bresse chicken in a roasting pan in the oven. The smell is distracting me. I had prepared it like a small turkey, stuffing the cavity with a very simple traditional stuffing recipe, and baked it with halved potatoes.
Not five minutes ago, I did what all cooks do - opened the oven and sampled some of the dripping-soaked stuffing. Oh, my goodness. I can't even tell you how delicious it was. I was not prepared for that!! Justin Moss of Bresse Farms, your flavor description was spot on.
As of Autumn, 2021:
For a number of years, Greenfire Farms, the ranch that initially imported Bresse into the United States, and Bresse Farms, were virtually the only two hatcheries that supplied chicks and eggs to breeders in the United States or Canada.
Ten years have passed as of 2021, and more breeders are taking up the challenge of raising American Bresse. Without detracting at all from the original farms, it's good and healthy for the breed that additional breeders can now raise and work together to improve the American Bresse breed.
Ambresse.com is compiling a list of breeders that you might like to contact should you yourself be interested in raising American Bresse chickens. We'll drop a link to that page right here - check back soon!
We at Ambresse.com wish you the very best of success and hope you'll join the mission of improving this wonderful heritage chicken breed!