The vast majority of chicken we purchase and consume in the United States is from a breed known as the Cornish Cross. The hybrid was first developed after World War II, carefully selected for the trait that has come to define it — its phenomenal rate of growth. Most Cornish Cross birds we eat are slaughtered at five to seven weeks of age. This rapid growth rate, combined with the disproportionate amount of white meat the bird produces, is precisely why the Cornish Cross is so ubiquitous. It dominates grocery store coolers, restaurant menus, and poultry barns across the country.
Despite the economic advantages of the Cornish Cross, a butcher shop in Grand Rapids is working to bring customers something different. Husband-and-wife team Matt Smith and Cyndi Esch opened Louise Earl Butcher in January of 2012. Louise Earl is a full-service butcher shop that sells grass-fed and finished beef, heritage pork, and pastured lamb and chicken, alongside a variety of dry goods and specialty products. Smith and Esch are lifelong residents of Grand Rapids that first met working in the food and beverage industry in the 90’s, and have spent their time since building a community around food.