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Rare $2,500 Chicken Is ‘Lamborghini’ of Poultry

Daily Ticker

How much would you pay for chicken?

Paul Bradshaw, a breeder in Florida at Greenfire Farms, sells chickens for $2,500...per chicken, that is. And $4,999 for a juvenile pair. Bradshaw says the rare Indonesian breed Ayam Cemani is “my most requested bird, ever.”

It remains to be seen if there's a mainstream market for the bird. He’s the first U.S. breeder and doesn’t expect to have chicks available until early 2014.

We asked Dana Cowin, editor-in-chief of Food & Wine, why this chicken costs so much.

"To be fair, it is an all black chicken," she says. "So it's very chic. Its feathers are black. Its organs are black. Its meat is black. So it's very special, it's a rare breed chicken."

The chicken is named after a village (Cemani) in central Java. The black coloring is the result of a genetic trait known as “fibromelanosis” and is also characteristic of Chinese Silkies, a black chicken treasured across China.

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Collectors covet this bird because it's beautiful, exotic and hard-to-get. Greenfire Farms says it was able to legally import the Ayam Cemani despite a current USDA export ban on importing live chickens from Indonesia. Their website says the “friendly” chickens are renowned in Asia “for the mystical powers of their black meat.” It’s traditionally eaten as part of various rituals. So while they are relatively cheap in Indonesia, the delicacy won’t have a chance to catch on in the U.S. until the Cemani are more widely available.

Bradshaw expects that eventually the Cemani population will grow and the price will fall. Then the bird could be sold in specialty meat markets, especially Asian markets across the U.S.

Cowin says you can collect the large, cream-colored eggs and eat them too. But she thinks the current price tag could cause some buyers to think twice before they slaughter this bird.

"At $2,500 a pop, $5,000 for a pair, you're probably not gonna go eat that bird anytime soon," she notes. "The market is not large, but it's passionate. This guy [Paul Bradshaw] who has imported this breed...he has a higher demand for these chickens than any other chickens in his rare breed collection. So among the people who care... they do care a lot."

For comparisons sake: Cowin notes you can get 15 run-of-the-mill chicks sent to you for about $85. And other special breeds – like the Chocolate Wyandotte – sell for $149 for a dozen. So the Ayam Cemani definitely stands apart.

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Cowin and her crew stumbled upon the $2,500 chicken as they assembled their latest issue of Food & Wine -- the September issue is a celebration of chicken.

"It's almost embarrassing to say that it's a chicken moment" but it is, says Cowin. The magazine details the most incredible juicy, crispy and fragrant things that chefs are doing with chicken across the country.

To be clear, there is an economic reason behind the current resurgence of chicken.

"The fact is that grain prices have dropped which means feeding chickens [is] less expensive so it is cheaper to buy a chicken today," says Cowin. "And beef and pork are becoming more expensive. So there is an economic underpinning but I am gonna have to go for flavor first."

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By the way, beyond chicken trends, Cowin talked to The Daily Ticker about the next big thing in food. She says we're gonna be talking about goats next year. It's better for the planet, and it's delicious -- according to Cowin. Stay tuned.

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