PETE's Fine Swine
We quickly decided to look for an alternative and we found colored broilers. These birds are a cross between egg-layer breeds and meat breeds. The hens are used for egg-production and the roosters are used for meat. They grow more slowly and don't grow quite so large as Cornish crosses, but they have so many benefits. Number one is they have more flavor and texture and the meat is very moist. They don't require 'solution' to be injected into them for flavor and moisture; they have it naturally! They also act like chickens.
We truly pasture the birds. They're started in the barn until they are 3-4 weeks old. At that age we move them out to a grass pasture where they spend the next 6-7 weeks. They have shelter from the elements and shade from the sun, but they are truly free to roam within a large fenced pasture. They are free to scratch in the grass for bugs, give themselves dust baths, and generally act like chickens. We rotate the shelters, food, and water sources around the pasture to encourage them to use the entire space. We keep the numbers of birds we raise to a level that does not overload the pasture. There is fresh green grass right up until butcher time.
Just like our pigs, we use a mobile processor who slaughters and processes the birds on-site at our farm. This minimizes stress on the birds, maximizes meat quality, and is just plain easier than catching them all and hauling them to a mass processing facility. Buyers pick up their birds at the farm; you can't get a fresher, more flavorful, more naturally raised chicken.
The first time we raised meat chickens several years ago, we bought the same type of chicks everyone starts with: Cornish crosses. Every feed store carries them; they're everywhere. Then we quickly realized the downside of Cornish crosses. They are so intensely bred for rapid growth that they are plagued with numerous health problems, can barely stand or walk when they reach butcher size because their bodies are so poorly proportioned, and have lost all chicken-ness they may have once had. They sit at the feeder, eat, wobble to the water, and that's about it. They wouldn't know what to do with a bug if they were able to move fast enough to catch it.