Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Chicken processing slipping

Our chickens: Ruby Cheryl, Betty and Veronica
Considering the prevalence of chicken sold by parts in the grocery stores, it must be the rare person who cuts up a whole chicken these days. Yet whole chickens are by far the most economical, especially when they are on sale for 59 cents a pound. You get the parts you like, separate them yourself and freeze them in portions that you know you can use, and put the remainder in the stockpot with some carrots and celery, a bay leaf and onion and garlic if you like. It tastes better than any stock I've bought in a can or box.

I'm no math whiz, but here's a breakdown of costs, all this week's prices at Harris Teeter:
4 chickens @ $0.59 = approximately $12

If you bought the parts:
4 large whole chicken breasts @ $4.99 per pound = approximately $24
16 chicken wings = $1.50 (about a pound)
8 chicken thighs and legs @ $3 per pound = approximately $12
4 quarts chicken broth (using backs, necks etc.)  $2 quart = $8

Total: About $45

Savings: $33 (less what you put your labor at)

Notice I didn't price out the hearts, gizzards and liver. For one thing, three out of the four livers were a sickly yellow-orange, not the brown-burgundy of a healthy liver. And you only get one each of everything, at the most, so the amount is negligible.

And the liver isn't the only thing that wasn't right with this batch of chickens; one didn't have the oil gland removed from the tail. No big deal for me, since I wasn't roasting the chickens, but could have spoiled the dinner if I had popped it in the oven without noticing. Also no big deal was the number of pin feathers and broken shafts, since I like my skinless chicken. But seeing feathers on a piece of roasted chicken really puts me off.

A tale of two tails
The photo at right shows a tail with the oil gland on, right, and how it should appear with it removed, left.

Don't know how to cut up a chicken? A step-by-step guide can be found HERE.

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