Similar to its poultry cousin the chicken, pheasants are raised for meat and eggs right here in Wisconsin. Though less popular, this bird is a protein-rich power food. Pheasant is a great example of the diverse, high quality products produced by Wisconsin farmers and processors. Not only are we America’s Dairyland, but we grow fruits and vegetables, brew beer, produce ethanol and raise pheasants. Wisconsin pheasants are a unique, healthy meal option and make a great addition to any dinner table.

To learn a little bit more about the pheasants in Wisconsin, I visited MacFarlane Pheasants. MacFarlane Pheasants is the largest pheasant farm in North America, and is located right in our state, just outside of Janesville. At MacFarlane Pheasants, they raise both birds for hunting and birds for direct consumption (known in the industry as dress birds). The sole variety raised for dress birds at MacFarlane Pheasants is the White Pheasant.

All of the pheasants at MacFarlane Pheasants begin their life in a hatchery. Here, the eggs are carefully looked over until they hatch. Once hatched, the small chicks remain inside, protected from the elements. At six to seven weeks old, the chicks will be moved outside to netted, covered pens where they are free to roam. “Our birds, like all pheasants, are raised on the ground,” shared Chris Theisen, logistics manager at MacFarlane Pheasants. Being raised outside is critical for pheasants to reach peak performance.

White pheasants consume a high calorie diet, consisting of corn, bean meal, and wheat. This diet helps the birds reach maturity at 12 weeks. Once they reach maturity, dress birds weigh approximately four to five pounds, at which time they will be sent for processing.

This fall, add a new option to your dinner menu. Choose pheasant as a great choice for a lean, hearty meat. “This specialty artisan meat is a healthy, natural choice astute food-lovers will savor,” shares the MacFarlane Pheasants’ website. Pheasant can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Just as a chicken, pheasants are sold as whole birds or in a variety of pre-cooked products. Chris shared that one of their most popular products is smoked pheasant.

Another great option? A pheasant brat! During my visit, I picked up a package of beer cheese pheasant brats to sample. I first boiled, and then grilled the brats. The result? Delicious, and highly recommended from my book! These brats are a great way to enjoy a Wisconsin classic, the brat, with a unique twist of pheasant meat. Chose a pheasant brat to truly celebrate the diversity of Wisconsin agriculture in one bite.

To help plan your next pheasant meal, look to the Pheasant for Dinner website as a great resource. Tips on where to buy pheasant, how to select which part of the bird is best, and how to properly cook a pheasant can all be found on their site: www.pheasantfordinner.com.

Alice in Dairyland Abigail Martin can be reached at DATCP, 2811 Agriculture Drive, P.O. Box 8911, Madison, WI 53718 or DATCPAlice@wisconsin.gov.