Bay Area pastured poultry panic may be premature

Damn. John Birdsall, the East Bay Express's restaurant reviewer, totally busted me on EBX's blog for prematurely panicking about the disappearance of Hoffman Game Birds from the Bay Area, now that the elderly owner is no longer selling at the Ferry Plaza farmers market. Doing the homework that I should have, Mr. B. called Magnani's butcher shop on Hopkins Ave. (near Monterey Market) and learned that they would still carry Hoffman chickens, and that Cafe Rouge and Oliveto would continue to serve them.

Stung, I have belatedly checked by phone and where noted, by Web, with some other local butchers to see who else might be selling Hoffman birds retail:

• Piedmont Grocery's butcher counter: Carries Rosie, the ubiquitous Petaluma Poultry organic chicken. No Hoffman.
Enzo's at Market Hall in Rockridge: Ditto
• Drewes Brothers in San Francisco: Ditto
Golden Gate Meat Company in San Francisco: Ditto
• The new Baron's Meat & Poultry in Star Grocery on Claremont that I've been hearing so much about: No one answered the phone, but the website said they carry Mary's and Smart Chicken. I think Mary's is the same as Mary's Turkeys, which sounds like a gargantuan operation a lá Petaluma Poultry and does not anywhere mention pasture, just "free range," which as we know is a term open to interpretation. Smart Chicken is only described in terms of its processing, which didn't sound promising.
Guerra's Deli & Meats in the Sunset carries Rosie and Fulton Valley chickens, but no Hoffman
Bryan's Meats in Laurel Heights: Rosie and "Martinelli Farms chicken." I was excited as I had never heard of Martinelli, but it turns out to be the producer of "Happy Dan" chicken they also sell at Berkeley Bowl, and I can't readily find much about their practices. Further research required.

And now for the good news

Jerry Ver Brugge of Ver Brugge Meat & Poultry on College Ave. in Rockridge (at Alcatraz Ave.), who answered the shop's phone himself, said he had carried Hoffman chickens in the past, but stopped as Hoffman requires a certain volume that he was unable to match. He said that Petaluma Poultry's Rocky and Rosie were just so much cheaper ($1.99 a pound, compared to $4 for Hoffman) that the Hoffman ones couldn't seem to compete.

When I explained that Hoffman had stopped selling at the Ferry Plaza and that those of us who care more about pasturing than organic certification were out of luck and cranky about it, his antenna perked up. "I've known Ruth Hoffman a long time," he said. "I'd be happy to carry the chickens again if the demand were there."

According to Jerry, the minimum wholesale order "just to get the truck here" is three cases per week, or about 60-75 chickens. So, pastured-chicken fans in Oakland and South Berkeley, let's give him a call and let him know there's enough interest to justify an order. His number is (510) 658-6854.

9 Responsesto “Bay Area pastured poultry panic may be premature”

  1. sam says:

    well you've pipped me since i am planning a uh-oh no chicken post for tomorrow - but never mind since you have done all the hard work and I can just link to you. Yay!

    Personally I would love to see a stockist in SF itself to replace our loss, because it will save me driving. Ideally a source in the E Bay and in the City would be great.

    Prather ranch also sells Heritage chickens (frozen) from Kansas but raised under ethical conditions, as I am led to believe.

    They are extremely tiny and cost about $12.
    I can't objectively vouch for the taste of the heritage chicken because I put mine in a strongly flavoured moroccan style stew so didnt really test it under optimum tasting conditions.

  2. DairyQueen says:

    Hi Sam! I didn't know about Prather -- guess I'll have to start going to the Grand Lake Market over here where Prather sells on Saturday, but that means no Fatted Calf, which just won't do. Why oh why doesn't Prather sell at Berkeley's markets?

    Anyway, don't you think Golden Gate Meats at the Ferry Building should carry Hoffman? I tried to suggest it but the person who answered the phone was rather curt.

    Thanks for dropping by. I love Becks n Posh and was very excited to vote for it for Best Food Blog - City.

  3. Anita says:

    I agree that it would be nice for some SF outlet ot carry Hoffman. I actually wrote Mrs Hoffman a letter and asked her to consider lobbying Drewes and GG Meats.

  4. Jesse says:

    Well, that was fast. I stopped by Ver Brugge tonight and mentioned to Jerry (who was busy cracking crabs) that I would love it if they carried Hoffman birds. He said that they had just decided to do so, and they'd have the birds in stock within a few weeks. He said it's official -- Hoffman is already publicly listing them as a retail carrier.

    As someone who lives right around the corner from Ver Brugge, thanks for putting the word out and helping make this happen.

  5. SPM says:

    I just called Jerry Ver Brugge who said "give us another couple of weeks" to get Hoffman broilers. I think he's still assessing whether there's enough of a volume-market to make a go of it. I assured him I would be a loyal local customer. Then I called Enzo's in Market Hall and was told that they do NOT carry Hoffmans!

  6. Ian says:

    I can't wait until Ver Brugge gets Hoffman chickens as we live not far from there. I too would like to find out more about the methods employed to produce the "Happy Dan" chicken available at Berkeley Bowl.

  7. Jake says:

    Just called and Jerry said that he has had a couple inquiries, but not enough to convince him to carry Hoffman. Which is odd, given the prior posts, but this is straight from the horse's mouth (as it were). He said to keep those calls coming, and he will get them in.

  8. DairyQueen says:

    Jake: Thanks for the Hoffman chicken update. I just found out last night that Cafe Rouge on Fourth Street has them! Called this morning to check and indeed they do. Too bad for Jerry, but I guess moving 75 chickens a week could be challenging.

  9. KathyR says:

    I know this post is over a year old, but I'm wondering if you were able to do more research on Martinelli/Happy Dan's.