American Bresse Chickens

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. 


Overview of the American Bresse Chicken

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. 

American Bresse Chickens Excel in Both
Meat and Egg Production

American Bresse as a Meat Breed

Cost of Bresse Chicken in Paris Butcher Shops in 2021:

EU €48.00/kg, or US $54.34/pound

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.

Terroir

"Terroir* is a French term used to describe the environmental factors that affect a crop's phenotype, including unique environment contexts, farming practices and a crop's specific growth habitat. Collectively, these contextual characteristics are said to have a character; terroir also refers to this character.

"Terroir is the basis of the French...appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) system..." (Wiki).

Bresse chickens are the only living creatures protected by the French AOC system, which presumes that the land on which the chickens are reared and their feeds and forages are grown imparts the unique qualities and flavors that are specific to Bresse Chickens. And as with protected wines, there will no doubt be some debate as to the extent of influence that terroir actually holds over the Bresse breed.

American breeders have certainly been raising some intensely flavored and fat-marbled American Bresse chickens; perhaps the North American terroir is not too shabby?

Am Bresse vs. Cornish Cross Meat Birds

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 as Egg Layers

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).

Am Bresse vs. Leghorn Egg Layers

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). 

Four Varieties of American Bresse Chickens

American Bresse chickens are found in four varieties: White, gray, black and blue, including splash varieties in both black and blue.

White American Bresse

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:

  • Feathers: White from top to bottom.
  • Legs and feet: Unfeathered (clean). Leg color is "blue," which ranges in hue from light gray, to gray, to a distinctly blue-hued gray. Deeper hues are preferred.
  • Combs and wattles: In males, a large, stiff, single comb and large wattles. The bottom line of the comb should not hug the head line, but should go straight out from the back of the head. In females, combs are average in size, and are expected to droop a bit.
  • Ear lobes: White. 
  • Body: Broad and meaty, not too tall. Bodies should not scream "leghorn." 
  • Weight: White American Bresse cocks can be expected to weigh in at around 6-7.5 pounds (2.5-3 kg). Hens weigh less, or around 4-6 pounds (1.8-2.5 kg). 
  • Egg Weight: 2 ounces (57 gms). 
  • Egg Color: Tinted. American Bresse Chickens lay tinted, pale, cream colored, light golden tan, or very light brown eggs. (The French Bresse standard calls for white eggs.)

Gray American Bresse

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

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:

  • Feathers: Black from top to bottom, with a green-tinged glistening sheen.
  • Splash Variety? Yes.
  • Legs and feet: Clean, blue, in some birds dark, almost charcoal in color. 
  • Combs and wattles: Same as in White Am Bresse - In males, a large, stiff, single comb and large wattles. In females, combs are average in size, and are expected to droop a bit.
  • Ear lobes: White. 
  • Body: Same as in White Am Bresse - Broad, meaty, not too leggy.  
  • Weight: Approximately 5.5 pounds. Hens weigh less, or around 3.5 - 4 pounds. 
  • Eggs: 2.5 ounces (71 grams - a bit larger than the eggs of the white variety).
  • Egg Color: Tinted, light golden tan, or very light brown.

Blue American Bresse

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

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.

Is American Bresse the Best Chicken in the World?

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:

  • Really good egg layers, but not quite as prolific as leghorns
  • Excellent meat birds, bar none, because they are meaty without being freaky or prone to early death, they are fat-marbled, and they have intense flavor and moisture. But - they won't be ready for market nearly as fast as the Cornish Cross 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!

Are You Considering Whether or Not to Raise American Bresse?

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.

State of the American Bresse Breed

As of Autumn, 2021:

  • In North America, the vast majority of American Bresse chickens are white. This may be because in France, the white variety of Bresse chickens is the variety that has achieved commercial success, and therefore was imported into America in the greatest numbers. 

  • Black, blue, and gray varieties are available but are less common. I have whites and blacks, and know that blacks and blues can be obtained in the USA without too much trouble. I have not seen an officially recognized gray American Bresse chicken, but I hear there is a flock in California. Please contact us if you can add to this discussion.

  • Breeders in North America are still in the process of developing the gourmet chicken market, and some local successes are happening. Sunbird Farms is one of these success stories.

  • In the USA and Canada: Breeders have established lines of communication on social media pages on both Facebook and Mewe. Consider joining these groups:
    --American Bresse Chickens on Facebook
    --American Bresse Breed Club on Facebook
    --American Bresse Chickens on Mewe - American Bresse Poultry Buy-Sell-Trade. This is the group for buying and selling, as Facebook chooses to disallow animal enterprise.

  • There are plans in the works to develop an official American Bresse Breed Club. I expect a breed club to begin taking shape in early 2022. Bookmark Ambresse.com to receive timely notices.

  • An American Bresse Standard of Perfection (SOP) still needs to be written, approved, and established. This process can begin once the breed club has formed.

  • In the absence of an official American Bresse SOP, the French Standard of Perfection is currently serving as a target toward which to breed. (Link coming.)

  • The American Poultry Association does not yet recognize the American Bresse Chicken breed. This will hopefully change in a few years when the breed can fulfill APA requirements for recognition.

  • Ambresse.com is helping to facilitate the process of breed development and organization of breeders into a successful, cohesive group of dedicated breeders. 

Breeders of American Bresse Chickens

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!

More Resources:

  1. https://www.bressefarms.com/about-breese-chickens.html
  2. https://greenfirefarms.com/american_bresse.html
  3. https://www.feathersite.com/Poultry/CGA/Bresse/BRKBresse.html
  4. https://sunbirdfarms.com/2015/01/lessons-american-bresse-two-years/
  5. https://cs-tf.com/bresse-chicken/
  6. https://www.thehappychickencoop.com/bresse-chicken/
  7. https://backyardpoultry.iamcountryside.com/chickens-101/bresse-chicken-breed-profile/
  8. https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/bresse-chicken-france/index.html
  9. https://morningchores.com/meat-chickens/