Gascon Chicken France
Elegant in its black plumage speckled with slaty blue feathers, hardy, a good brooder and with a reputation for the quality and quantity of its meat, the Gascon chicken has always been a highly regarded bird in the farmyards of Southwestern France.
Yet since the 1950s, with the industrialization of poultry farms, the Gascon chicken has suffered the same fate as other rustic native breeds. As it does not adapt well to battery farming, it has been gradually abandoned in favor of more productive hybrids.
Threatened with extinction, this breed owes its survival to a handful of tenacious farmers who held on to a few birds. In 2003, the amateurs and professionals involved (both breeders and transformers) formed the association La Poule Gasconne. Supported by the Conservatory for Regional Biological Heritage of the Midi-Pyrénées region, they started work to save the Gascon chicken, aiming to find standard examples of the breed in its original, larger and stockier version (unlike the small birds presented at competitions).
The association plans to promote the breed with farmers and consumers.
Various high-quality birds are produced: chicken (raised for 150 days in the open air), pullet (hen slaughtered before it has mated), coq vièrge, or unmated rooster (castrated male, less fat than a capon and more meat than a hen). Of course there are also small, white, tasty eggs and prestigious Gascon capon, plucked dry to preserve the quality of the product, which is famous for its firm, slightly fatty meat and exceptional flavor.
Gascon birds can be served at the table in many different ways: au pot hen, gasconnade of unmated rooster, pullet in a salt crust or roast Gascon capon…
Sacrificed in the name of productivity, this bird is now returning to Gascon farms to the great delight of breed enthusiasts and discerning gastronomes.
In addition to the conservation work still being carried out (genetic selection), the Presidium aims to help develop the breed by promoting it both within and outside its local area. A primary technical objective is to define, together with producers, the best way of rearing the birds which enables their flavor to be fully expressed. This must be compatible with the economic and human requirements of modern agricultural practice, while respecting the specific characteristics of the bird. Unlike other Mediterranean breeds, the Gascon chicken is a very dynamic, active and almost aggressive bird: it requires large amount of open space. Slow Food will advise the best solutions for farming.
Departments of Ariège, Haute-Garonne, Gers and Hautes-Pyrénées, Midi-Pyrénées Region
Presidium supported by
Région Midi Pyrénées
Association La Poule Gasconne
32 140 Masseube
tel. + 33 562669825
Slow Food Bigorre Convivium
tel. + 33 562517152