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The first documentation of the chickens of Bresse reportedly dates from 12 November 1591, when the citizens of Bourg presented two dozen birds to Joachim de Rye, Marquis de Treffort. In the early nineteenth century, the lawyer, politician, epicure and gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755–1826), who was born at Belley in the Ain, is supposed to have described the Bresse chicken as “the queen of poultry, the poultry of kings”.
Like the La Flèche, which was raised and fattened in a similar fashion, the Bresse chicken had high standing in the market. Nevertheless, by about 1900 the breed had virtually disappeared. Its recovery was due to fancy breeders, who selectively bred a sufficient number of white chickens for the breed to become stable. A new breed standard was drawn up in 1904. The Bresse name, used for both chicken products and for the dinde de Bresse, the turkey of the area, received legal protection on 22 December 1936; this became an appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) in 1957.
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