Organic vs. Regular Chicken

Whenever I shop at Whole Foods, my brother tells me organic farming is a scam. He contends that any farmer and their mother can call a plot of land “organic,” meanwhile the other 98% of non-organic crops growing in the same field get sprayed with pesticide, which often drifts towards the organic section. It’s a legitimate point and, like anything that becomes trendy in pop culture, “going green” requires more scrutiny and responsibility than just buying a reusable shopping bag. And as much as it pains me to say this, my brother has a point here. Everyone jumped on the organic bandwagon, but most people don’t care enough to understand what this really means. I don’t want to get into a lesson in organics 101 (you can read that here), but I do think it’s important to know about.Realistically, I know that most people will not sit down and research organic farming before going grocery shopping, and part of me thinks that’s ok too. Support of fresh, locally grown ingredients cultivated without chemicals and other pesticides is always a good thing. Besides, Whole Foods is such a satisfying place to shop and their cheese section makes me happy.

But the reason for this short tirade is not because of cheese (although I could go on and on!), it is about chicken. Recently, R and I saw our favorite Food Network maven make a butterflied chicken recipe on the grill. Seeing as the temperature was below freezing and it was sleeting in Chicago, outdoor grilling was not an option, but we adapted the recipe and thought we could make do in the oven. So out we went – in the freezing rain/sleet/snow – to Whole Foods.

The recipe called for a whole chicken, deboned, but that was way too much food for the two of us., so we bought one giant boneless chicken breast with the skin on that weighed in at a whopping pound and a half! The recipe is quite simple; the most important part was to allow the chicken enough time to marinate in with the herb mixture before cooking. When we put that behemoth of a breast into the oven, I assumed it would be a tasty chicken dish – how could it not be with rosemary, lemon and garlic? – but nothing spectacular.

I could not have been more wrong. Every bite of that chicken was tender, juicy, flavorful and aromatic. Chicken isn’t usually one of those proteins that “wows” you, but this truly was fantastic. I attribute much of the success to the basic ingredients and fantastic recipe creator, but honestly, I think the element that elevated it from “yum” to “MMMM!” was the chicken. When we bought the organic chicken breast at Whole Foods, I didn’t mind paying a little extra because I knew it was high quality, but I couldn’t have expected how enormously it would impact the taste of the dish. I was amazed that it actually tasted like chicken! When was the last time you had chicken that tasted like something other than what it was cooked with?

So to return to my original musings on all things organic, I must say I support buying organic wholeheartedly; for the political reasons, for the economic reasons and for the environmental reasons, but also for the TASTE! Sadly, I think we often forget what food is supposed to taste like and settle for the watered-down version. Even eggs, which I had never really considered, seem to be lacking, judging by the color of Monsieur Lebovitz’s. And so I implore you, please, if you make this recipe, use organic chicken. I promise your tastebuds will thank you.

Butterflied Chicken
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten. We served this dish with roasted potatoes and broccolini and it could not have been a more perfect meal.

1/4 C. chopped fresh rosemary leaves, plus 1 sprig
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 1/2 Tbs. lemon juice
Good olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 boneless chicken breast with skin, about 1-2 lb.
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced


Mix the chopped rosemary, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, 1 Tbs. olive oil, 2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper together in a small bowl to make a paste.

Place the chicken on a sheet pan, skin side up, and loosen the skin from the meat with your fingers. Place 1/2 of the paste under the skin of each chicken. Rub any remaining paste on the outside and underside of the chicken.

Turn the chicken skin side down and scatter the lemon slices and sprigs of rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. Fold chicken over, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

OVEN: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake chicken for 45 minutes – 1 hour or until juices run clear.

GRILLING: Heat a grill with coals. Spread the coals out in 1 dense layer and brush the grill with oil. Unroll the chickens, place them on the grill and cook for 12 minutes on each side.

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  • Hillary

    At the Alice Waters event I went to, I entered a conversation about the true definition of local, sustainable organic farms. Waters and her supporter Sarah Stregner of Prairie Grass Cafe contend that many farmers markets contend that they are organic but it takes more than their word for them to actually shop there. So good point!

  • steamy kitchen

    I’m so lucky that I have a small time butcher nearby that sells organic whole chicken and prime meat for much cheaper than big markets. I love Whole Foods, but hey, if I can get organic and support my friend, the butcher, even better!


  • melissa

    When was the last time you had chicken that tasted like something other than what it was cooked with?

    huh. good point. I will definitely keep this in mind because I am blanded out on chicken for sure. thanks maxine.

  • Lina

    Organic it is…..I need to try this! When are you making it? hehe

  • Bonny Bélanger

    I believe that an important point has been missed here. Yes, anyone can claim to be organic. Anyone can claim to be Britney Spears, too. However, certification is key.

    If a chicken is certified as organic, and bears the logo of a reputable certifying body, it becomes more than a claim. It means that the chicken has met rigorous standards, and can back those standards up through the strict auditing process that it goes through to bear that certifying body’s logo.

    Kind Regards,
    Bonny Bélanger.


    Whole Foods provides certification for all their foods – that’s one reason why you pay a bit more. Yes, anyone can call what they do organic, etc. however, just talk with someone in Whole Foods – they will explain their rigorous process and what is involved. Get to know your store, farmer and something about the issue. You may be surprised, and sometimes pleasantly. PS “going green” as you put it is not a lately developed trend. It has been around for many decades. After most people ignored the earlier warnings, it took several decades and more than a generation for the problems to build until they were no longer able to be ignored. Check it out. You might be surprised again. You do have to read more than blogs.

  • nancy wasen

    We have a farm in our area that went from raising dairy cows to raising free range chickens and turkeys. After years of huge chicken breasts bought at the local store i was take back how much different the color of the meat was when cooked and smaller the breasts were. In talking to the owners I learned that the big chicken conglomerates use hormones to get those huge breasts. And that is not good for any of us.
    So I spend alittle more but eat a chicken that tastes better and is better for me. Check around your area to see who has organic and free range in all that you buy. Support your local farmers who are trying to make a difference. It is the way we can get healthier!
    Happy Holidays

  • Scar Removal Products

    I can’t taste the difference between organic and regular chicken to be honest…

  • Fast Food Recipes

    What is organic chicken anyway? They dont put chemicals on them?

  • Ancilla Tila

    Sounds really good, I’d like to try this out.

  • Augusto

    Forgive me for not reading the comments, I just wanted to ask something. You state that the chicken you cooked was delicious and fantastic, probably because it was organic. Have you considered maybe cooking the same recipe with a not organic chicken? I mean you obviously spend a good amount of money for high end, fancy organic chicken, what would be the difference in flavor and texture if u got the high end not organic chicken? I’ve bought organic chicken and regular chicken, as I like to call it, and I can’t taste a difference. My girlfriend is an organic buff but I really don’t agree with the tasting better than other food that isn’t organic.

  • Mercedes

    I have also made this butterflied chicken from a recipe on Food Network. I believe you are talking about Ina Garten’s recipe. The chicken turns out wonderful, have made it many times with CONVENTIONAL chicken NOT organic and the taste is amazing; not because the chicken is organic – it’s the recipe!

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