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. (I call them "triple-purpose," because of their propensity toward rich taste and fat marbling.)
American Bresse are a medium sized dual purpose breed. They grow very rapidly until they reach their adult weight of up to 8.5 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. (Is fat bad for you?)
Flavor. Properly prepared, American Bresse chickens have a rich, even dramatic poultry flavor. That rich flavor may be due to feeds, air-drying, fat-marbling, and most probably more than a touch of 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, including 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 Cross chicks.
Cornish Crosses are the result of a 4-way terminal cross using cockerels and hens that have been specifically bred for many generations for their screaming fast growth and double the muscle. They are nearly exclusively 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. (Quick note: Cornish crossed with White Plymouth Rocks are called Cornish Rock Crosses.)
Freedom Rangers are another very popular meat chicken. These birds are also hybrids derived from heritage French stock from Burgundy and Brittany, and then crossed with American meat breeds such as New Hampshire. They perform a distant second to Cornish Cross itself. Freedom Ranger 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 with Cornish Cross 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 a minimum of 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, and nearly on par with the hybrid known as Red Ranger.
Finishing does help to enhance the American Bresse meat qualities, although finishing is not an essential practice. Learn more about finishing American Bresse meat birds here.
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 all that unusual that an Am Bresse pullet would start laying her first eggs at 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 tend to 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:
Color Genetics: The ideal genetic combination that produces a white American Bresse chicken is I/I C/C.
The recessive white gene has unfortunately snuck into the white gene pool by way of the Black variety. This increases the chance of a combo of one dominant white gene with one recessive white gene in individual birds, leading to leakage of black pigment into white feathers. Learn more: American Bresse Genetics Questions.
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 and genetics.
Pictured at right: Gray Bresse Gauloise chickens in France. Several breeders in North America are developing this variety as the recessive genetics in American Bresse begin to present themselves.
Black American Bresse vary little from White American Bresse, other than color and size. They are feathered in solid black, and they are up to a pound or so 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 hard to find a more all-around balanced or desirable breed of 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 placing it on a bed of potato halves.
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 at all prepared for that!!
As of late 2023:
For a number of years, Greenfire Farms, the ranch that initially imported Bresse into the United States, and Bresse Farms in Mississippi, were virtually the only two hatcheries that supplied chicks and eggs to breeders in the United States or Canada.
Twelve years have passed as of 2023, and more breeders are taking up the challenge of raising American Bresse. It is good and healthy that additional breeders are now rising up and working together to improve the American Bresse breed.
Ambresse.com maintains a list of American Bresse Chicken Breeders that you might like to contact should you be interested in raising American Bresse chickens.
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!
Translate This Page
Traduire Cette Page
Traduzca Esta Pagina