|Type||Starter, main meal, side dish|
|Hot and cold|
|About 120 calories kcal|
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||916 kJ (219 kcal)|
|Aspartic acid||2.200 g|
|Glutamic acid||3.610 g|
|Vitamin A equiv.||
Not including 35% bones.
|Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Chicken is the most common type of poultry in the world, and was one of the first domesticated animals. Chicken is a major world wide source of meat and eggs for human consumption. It is prepared as food in a wide variety of ways, varying by region and culture. The prevalence of chickens is due to almost the entire chicken being edible, and the ease of raising them. In the developed world chickens are usually subject to intensive farming methods.
Chicken as a meat has been depicted in Babylonian carvings from around 600 BC. Chicken was one of the most common meats available in the Middle Ages. It was eaten over most of the Eastern hemisphere and a number of different kinds of chicken such as capons, pullets and hens were eaten. It was one of the basic ingredients in the so-called white dish, a stew usually consisting of chicken and fried onions cooked in milk and seasoned with spices and sugar.
Chicken consumption in the United States increased during World War II due to a shortage of beef and pork. In Europe, consumption of chicken overtook that of beef and veal in 1996, linked to consumer awareness of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease).
Modern varieties of chicken such as the Cornish Cross, are bred specifically for meat production, with an emphasis placed on the ratio of feed to meat produced by the animal. The most common breeds of chicken consumed in the US are Cornish and White Rock.
Chickens raised specifically for food are called broilers. In the United States, broilers are typically butchered at a young age. Modern Cornish Cross hybrids, for example, are butchered as early as 8 weeks for fryers and 12 weeks for roasting birds.
- Breast: These are white meat and are relatively dry.
- Leg: Comprises two segments:
- The "drumstick"; this is dark meat and is the lower part of the leg,
- the "thigh"; also dark meat, this is the upper part of the leg.
- Wing: Often served as a light meal or bar food. Buffalo wings are a typical example. Comprises three segments:
- the "drumette", shaped like a small drumstick,
- the middle "flat" segment, containing two bones, and
- the tip, sometimes discarded.
- Chicken feet: These contain relatively little meat, and are eaten mainly for the skin and cartilage. Although considered exotic in Western cuisine, the feet are common fare in other cuisines, especially in the Caribbean and China.
- Giblets: organs such as the heart, gizzards, and liver may be included inside a butchered chicken or sold separately.
- Head: Considered a delicacy in China, the head is split down the middle, and the brains and other tissue is eaten.
- Kidneys: Normally left in when a broiler carcass is processed, they are found in deep pockets on each side of the vertebral column.
- Neck: This is served in various Asian dishes. It is stuffed to make helzel among Ashkenazi Jews.
- Oysters: Located on the back, near the thigh, these small, round pieces of dark meat are often considered to be a delicacy.
- Pygostyle (chicken's buttocks) and testicles: These are commonly eaten in East Asia and some parts of South East Asia.
- Blood: Immediately after slaughter, blood may be drained into a receptacle, which is then used in various products. In many Asian countries, the blood is poured into low, cylindrical forms, and left to congeal into disc-like cakes for sale. These are commonly cut into cubes, and used in soup dishes.
- Carcase: After the removal of the flesh, this is used for soup stock.
- Chicken eggs
- Heart and gizzard
- Liver: This is the largest organ of the chicken, and is used in such dishes as Pâté and chopped liver.
- Schmaltz: This is produced by rendering the fat, and is used in various dishes.
Chicken generally includes low fat in the meat itself (castrated roosters excluded). The fat is highly concentrated on the skin. A 100g serving of baked chicken breast contains 4 grams of fat and 31 grams of protein, compared to 10 grams of fat and 27 grams of protein for the same portion of broiled, lean skirt steak.
However according to a 2006 Harvard School of Public Health study of 135,000 people, people who ate grilled skinless chicken 5 or more times a week had a 52 percent higher chance of developing bladder cancer compared to people who did not. However, such strong associations were not found in individuals regularly consuming chicken with skin intact.
Use of Roxarsone in chicken production
In many factory farms, chickens are routinely administered with the feed additive Roxarsone, a relatively benign organoarsenic compound which partially decomposes into inorganic arsenic compounds in the flesh of chickens, and in their feces, which are often used as a fertilizer. The compound is used to control stomach pathogens and promote growth. A Consumer Reports study in 2004 reported finding "no detectable arsenic in our samples of muscle" but found "A few of our chicken-liver samples has an amount that according to EPA standards could cause neurological problems in a child who ate 2 ounces of cooked liver per week or in an adult who ate 5.5 ounces per week." However, the amounts found in these livers averaged to 460 part per billion; an amount still less than the 2,000 parts per billion limit set by the FDA. The FDA has found there to be no significant impact for the use of Roxarsone in the production of chicken, turkey or swine.
Information obtained by the Canadian Integrated Program for Antimicrobial Resistance (CIPARS) “strongly indicates that cephalosporin resistance in humans is moving in lockstep with use of the drug in poultry production.” According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the unapproved antibiotic ceftiofur is routinely injected into eggs in Quebec and Ontario to discourage infection of hatchlings. Although the data are contested by the industry, antibiotic resistance in humans appears to be directly related to the antibiotic's use in eggs.
A recent study by the Translational Genomics Research Institute showed that nearly half (47%) of the meat and poultry in US grocery stores was contaminated with S. aureus, with more than half (52%) of those bacteria resistant to antibiotics.
Marketing and sales
Juvenile chickens, of less than 28 days of age at slaughter in the United Kingdom are marketed as poussin. Mature chicken is sold as small, medium or large.
Whole mature chickens are marketed in the United States as fryers, broilers, and roasters. Fryers are the smallest size (2.5-4 lbs dressed for sale), and the most common, as chicken reach this size quickly (about 7 weeks). Most dismembered packaged chicken would be sold whole as fryers. Broilers are larger than fryers. They are typically sold whole. Roasters, or roasting hens, are the largest chickens commonly sold (3–5 months and 6-8 lbs) and are typically more expensive. Even larger and older chickens are called stewing chickens but these are no longer usually found commercially. The names reflect the most appropriate cooking method for the surface area to volume ratio. As the size increases, the volume (which determines how much heat must enter the bird for it to be cooked) increases faster than the surface area (which determines how fast heat can enter the bird). For a fast method of cooking, such as frying, a small bird is appropriate: frying a large piece of chicken results in the inside being undercooked when the outside is ready.
Chicken is also sold in dismembered pieces. Pieces may include quarters, or fourths of the chicken. A chicken is typically cut into two leg quarters and two breast quarters. Each quarter contains two of the commonly available pieces of chicken. A leg quarter contains the thigh, drumstick and a portion of the back; a leg has the back portion removed. A breast quarter contains the breast, wing and portion of the back; a breast has the back portion and wing removed. Pieces may be sold in packages of all of the same pieces, or in combination packages. Whole chicken cut up refers to either the entire bird cut into 8 individual pieces. (8-piece cut); or sometimes without the back. A 9-piece cut (usually for fast food restaurants) has the tip of the breast cut off before splitting. Pick of the Chicken, or similar titles, refers to a package with only some of the chicken pieces. Typically the breasts, thighs, and legs without wings or back. Thighs and breasts are sold boneless and/or skinless. Dark meat (legs, drumsticks and thighs) pieces are typically cheaper than white meat pieces (breast, wings). Chicken livers and/or gizzards are commonly available packaged separately. Other parts of the chicken, such as the neck, feet, combs, etc. are not widely available except in countries where they are in demand, or in cities that cater to ethnic groups who favor these parts.
There are many fast food restaurant chains on both a national and global scale that sell exclusively or primarily in poultry products including KFC (global), Red Rooster (Australia), Hector Chicken (Belgium) and CFC (Indonesia). Most of the products on the menu in such eateries are fried or breaded and are served with french fries.
Raw chicken may contain salmonella. The safe minimum cooking temperature recommended by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is 165 °F (74 °C) to prevent foodborne illness because of bacteria and parasites. However in Japan raw chicken is sometimes consumed in a dish called torisashi , which is sliced raw chicken served in sashimi style. Another preparation is toriwasa which is lightly seared on the outsides while the inside remains raw.
Chicken can be cooked in many ways. It can be made into sausages, skewered, put in salads, grilled, breaded and deep-fried, or used in various curries. There is significant variation in cooking methods amongst cultures. Historically common methods include roasting, baking, broasting, and frying. Western cuisine frequently has chicken prepared by deep frying for fast foods such as fried chicken, chicken nuggets, chicken lollipops or buffalo wings. They are also often grilled for salads or tacos.
Chickens often come with labels such as "roaster", which suggest a method of cooking based on the type of chicken. While these labels are only suggestions, ones labeled for stew often do not do well when cooked with other methods.
Some chicken breast cuts and processed chicken breast products include the moniker "with Rib Meat." This is a misnomer, as it is the small piece of white meat that overlays the scapula, and is removed with the breast meat. The breast is cut from the chicken and sold as a solid cut, while the leftover breast and true rib meat is stripped from the bone through mechanical separation for use in chicken franks, for example. Breast meat is often sliced thinly and marketed as chicken slices, an easy filling for sandwiches. Often, the tenderloin (pectoralis minor) is marketed separately from the breast (pectoralis major). In the US, "tenders" can be either tenderloins or strips cut from the breast. In the UK the strips of pectoralis minor are called "Chicken mini-fillets".
Chicken bones are hazardous to health as they tend to break into sharp splinters when eaten, but they can be simmered with vegetables and herbs for hours or even days to make chicken stock.
In Asian countries it is possible to buy bones alone as they are very popular for making chicken soups, which are said to be healthy. In Australia the rib cages and backs of chickens after the other cuts have been removed are frequently sold cheaply in supermarket delicatessen sections as either "chicken frames" or "chicken carcasses" and are purchased for soup or stock purposes.
Raw chicken maintains its quality longer in the freezer as compared to when having been cooked because moisture is lost during cooking. There is little change in nutrient value of chicken during freezer storage. For optimal quality, however, a maximal storage time in the freezer of 12 months is recommended for uncooked whole chicken, 9 months for uncooked chicken parts, 3 to 4 months for uncooked chicken giblets, and 4 months for cooked chicken. Freezing doesn't usually cause color changes in poultry, but the bones and the meat near them can become dark. This bone darkening results when pigment seeps through the porous bones of young poultry into the surrounding tissues when the poultry meat is frozen and thawed.
It is safe to freeze chicken directly in its original packaging, however this type of wrap is permeable to air and quality may diminish over time. Therefore, for prolonged storage, it is recommended to overwrap these packages. It is recommended to freeze unopened vacuum packages as is. If a package has accidentally been torn or has opened while food is in the freezer, the food is still safe to use, but it is still recommended to overwrap or rewrap it. Chicken should be away from other foods, so if they begin to thaw, their juices won't drip onto other foods. If previously frozen chicken is purchased at a retail store, it can be refrozen if it has been handled properly. Chicken can be cooked or reheated from the frozen state, but it will take approximately one and a half times as long to cook, and any wrapping or absorbent paper should be discarded.
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- Home / Fact Sheets / Safe Food Handling / Freezing and Food Safety from USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. Last Modified: June 3, 2010.
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