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Why Is Poultry Often Purchased Whole?

Last Updated: 25.02.24


When grocery shopping, you want to get your chicken meat as fast as possible. You don’t care about the raising process or the heat lamp for chicks or the feeders used. However, you should consider purchasing whole poultry since it is cheaper and more nutritious. Also, you get to use all parts of the chicken meaning this is more environmentally friendly.

There is no such thing as a poultry farm that can raise only chicken breast or chicken legs. But when the requirement for one part of the chicken is higher, a supply problem is created. This is why most of the small poultry farm owners prefer to sell whole poultry. 


Buying a whole chicken is cheaper

Processing is less expensive for whole poultry and the smaller cost of processing is usually passed on to the final price tag. You might have noticed the price per pound for a whole chicken is smaller than for just thighs or breasts. So if you know how to cook an entire chicken at once or how to use the parts for multiple recipes, it is a more economical way to get your poultry meat.



Using all of the poultry’s parts

Almost no part of poultry goes to waste. A great benefit is the opportunity to make chicken broth. As we all know, chicken broth has been used for a long time as a cure for almost everything. The broth has minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium that your body might need when you get sick. 

There is no secret that broth adds a great flavor to your food. Next time when you plan on making pasta or cooking rice, you should use broth. Furthermore, consuming chicken broth will get you easily assimilable electrolytes which helps your digestion, besides being of great use for a wide range of other recipes thanks in no small part to gelation. 


It’s more friendly to the environment

Of course, it is easier to buy only legs or breast instead of making yourself go through the process of cooking a lot of meat. But there are a few ideas that you might want to consider. Imagine how much the overall waste would be reduced. It takes longer to process poultry to have it sold as different parts. So the chances of the chicken meat to get spoiled are higher if the process takes more time. Maybe we don’t need to consume these immense quantities of meat and we should focus on the quality of the bought products.


Cheap poultry is not that cheap

The small price of the chicken is an illusion of the actual automatized food system. Surprisingly, chicken meat is pretty expensive to produce. Raising poultry is more costly than raising cattle because they require more labor and are harder to process. In fact, poultry is the most costly meat we get from farms. 

Poultry available in the supermarket is usually given broiler feed to make it grow incredibly fast. This poultry feed has the highest percentage of protein and is the most expensive. Poultry appears to be cheap in local supermarkets only because people already paid for it through their tax bills.


How does the farm bill work

Through the farm bill, the U.S. government manages to collect from taxpayers around $20 billion each year. The money is redirected as payments to farmers while over 30% of the budget goes for feed grain’s production. 

But most of these subsidies are paid to firms that have an industrialized meat production allowing them to feed their poultry for less than the cost of raising it. In general, small farm owners are not in a position to benefit from this funding so their production costs will be higher.



What are you buying?

Most of the farmers choose to raise chickens that are Cornish Cross. This breed is very efficient in terms of meat production since the birds are ready to be delivered to the slaughterhouse after 6-8 weeks. For example, traditional breeds need 12-16 weeks to completely mature. Big farms are accelerating the growing process using special poultry feed so they can get a good position in the marketplace.

If you want to help a small farm owner, try to give up the boneless, skinless chicken and next time buy whole poultry. You might also get yourself some tasty meals while doing this.


Why you should buy from a small farmer

Poultry available in stores is sometimes “plumped”. Producers use a saline solution during processing to give the chicken a better taste (according to the same producers). Legally, they can plump the poultry up to 15%. This means that you are paying for meat more than it says on the label since you are also buying some useless saline solution. Now, small farms don’t use this method when processing meat. 

Even though their poultry might look smaller and not as attractive as store-bought chicken, it is healthier for you. Poultry bought from the farmers’ market usually doesn’t have the USDA organic seal, but it’s more likely the chickens were raised by organic standards. They had free-range lives, ran all over the farm feeding on wild grass, ants, and worms.


About the label

What poultry you get for your home cooking depends on what’s important to you. If you can’t buy an organic chicken from the farmers’ market, you should look for an antibiotic-free bird. To help you make the best choice, we will explain some of the information marked on the label.


USDA Certified Organic 

This means the chickens were raised with organic feed without any pesticides and antibiotics. Also, they had outdoor access and were delivered to organic slaughterhouses. Nevertheless, there is no way of telling how much time these birds spent outside. Also, producers who mark their products with the “raised without antibiotics” or “no antibiotics administered” label should offer proper documentation according to the USDA.

Certified Humane and Animal Welfare Approved is a classification used by independent certifiers. These designations assure humane treatment and slaughter. Also, Animal Welfare Approved means the birds had access to pasture.

There are a few designations that might sound good to customers but they have no real value. Natural and vegetarian fed sound like a healthy raising but they are not approved or recognized designations by any certifiers and are widely pointless. 

The same thing goes for chicken products labeled as “free range”. Companies use these terms to make their products sound more appealing to customers without adding anything to the product’s final quality.



Air-chilled poultry

When producers remove the feathers from chickens, it implies a boiling water bath and immediate cooldown. In general, for chicken available at the store, producers sink them in a tank filled with chlorinated cold water. This way, there is a high chance for dangerous bacteria to spread from one chicken to another. 

For air-chilled birds, the dehydrated environment significantly reduces the chances of bacteria getting spread. The label should specify if the chicken has been air-dried. Also, some chefs say that these chickens will have a crisp skin when cooked.


How to cut a whole chicken

First of all, you should remove the neck and the packages of giblets. Give the chicken a little rinse and pat it dry so it will be easier to maneuver. If you are not a big fan of cooking with fat, remove the large pieces of fat from the chicken’s back.


Place the chicken on its back and look for the wing’s joint. Rotate the wing to dislocate the joint and use the knife to cleanly separate it. Do the same with the other wing. 


Put the chicken with the breast side down. Cut along the breast on each side to obtain a small gap. Pull the leg sideways until you feel that the leg came out of its socket. Cut through the joint to remove the leg. 

To detach the leg from the thigh, fold them together until you can spot a dent. This is where the thigh and the leg bone are separating from each other. Use the dent as a guideline to cut and separate the two parts.


After making a clean cut over the breast bone, use the knife to detach the breast from the rib cage. When both parts are removed, expose the drumette’s joint and cut through it.

This is a great method if you want to fill your fridge with fresh chicken. Properly packed chicken meat should last more than 6 months if it’s frozen. After learning how to cut a whole chicken, you will need less storage space for your family’s food supplies.



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