Until a few decades ago, every Piedmont farm was home to a few small animals, such as ducks, geese, rabbits, and chickens. They were kept for family consumption or sold at local markets to supplement the farm’s modest income. The traditional breeds of chicken, used for meat and eggs, were the Bionda Piemontese) and Bianca di Saluzzo.
The Bianca di Saluzzo is a traditional breed of chicken native to the Piemonte region, in northwestern Italy. The breeds traditionally bred in the Piedmont region were the Bionda Piemontese and the Bianca di Saluzzo also known as Bianca di Cavour.
Those two breeds are currently on the brink of extinction and are maintained by a few local agricultural high schools that took the initiative to revive and preserve the original type since 1999. Eggs, chicks and breeders can be purchased at the Institute of Verzuolo.
Bianca di Saluzzo characteristics
The Bianca di Saluzzo is a medium-sized breed with yellow fur, legs, and earlobes. The high and slightly open tail on the hen has a pearly color, while the plumage is white with straw-yellow reflections on the neck and back.
The comb is simple and large, with 4 to 6 points. Average weight is 2.5–2.7 kg (5.5–6.0 lb) for roosters, 2.0–2.1 kg (4.4–4.6 lb) for hens.
The Bianca di Saluzzo hen is a good producer of bright white eggs with a soft shell and an average weight of 50 grams. The quality of the meat, also due to extensive breeding and feeding techniques, is of excellent quality and is therefore aimed at the most demanding consumers.
Chickens start laying at 6 to 7 months and can produce approximately 180 eggs per year. It is a robust breed, suitable to graze freely in the fields.
Bianca di Saluzzo history
The Bianca di Saluzzo was once abundant in the Piemonte region, especially in the historic Marquesado de Saluzzo and in neighboring communities such as Cavour, Villafranca and Garzigliana.
In the 1960s, industrialization and intensive agriculture caused a decline in the breed, leading to its near disappearance. The recovery began in 1999 under the auspices of the Verzuolo Professional Institute of Agriculture and the Environment, in the province of Cuneo. A breed standard has been submitted to the Italian Federation of Bird Associations.
The breed always had a good reputation attracting traders from all over Italy, the chickens were raised on farms to feed the family unit and for the production of eggs and meats that were often also sold. Historical notes show that the existence of this breed with white plumage, which differed from the others by the goodness of the meat and by its smaller size, has been seen since the end of the 19th century.
In recent decades, Bianca di Saluzzo has often been replaced by industrial breeding based on fast-growing breeds, not very tasty and unsuitable for field breeding.
Breed numbers remain low. A study published in 2007 revealed a figure of approximately 700 individuals of the breed for the total breeding stock, of which approximately 200 were roosters.