Anyone else having chicken breast issues?

foodonastump

Rubbery chicken breasts - this was a topic here a few years ago but I can’t seem to find it. It used to be that I never had issues with chicken breast. Then all of a sudden, once in a while there’d be a bad one. Now it seems that every time I buy chicken, a couple of them turn out hard and rubbery. I’m not talking overcooked and dry, definitely not that. I use my thermapen and take them off the heat mid 150’s. And it’ll happen in the same batch, cooked together. Case in point, last night I simply pan-grilled some cutlets; three were good, two went to the dog. This is not limited to one store, either. Anyone else? It’s getting to the point where I cringe at the thought of cooking chicken, but we’re eating far too much red meat. Esp now that it dawned on me that pork is NOT the other white meat.

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Bluebell66

Yes, we have had similiar issues. I so rarely buy chicken breast anymore, but when we do, we slice it thinly in half, and that seems to help. I have had decent luck in the pressure cooker, but we never grill it or bake it, otherwise it's rubbery. I did buy chicken legs and thighs the other day for 77 cents/pound, so I'm on the lookout for something to do with those.

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John Liu

https://www.thedailymeal.com/news/eat/here-s-why-your-store-bought-chicken-becoming-tough-and-chewy/040116

It seems to be a known problem.

I don't really like chicken breast, usually buy whole fryers or packages of thighs. I can't say I've run into "woody breast" but maybe I've just been lucky.

Maybe sous vide is the new grill, for factory chickens.


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rosesstink

Yep. It's something I've been seeing for several years. I usually shop at Wegmans. I complained twice about tough chicken breasts (with no response from Wegmans) and then stopped buying them there. I now go out of my way to buy them an independent meat market where the chicken breasts are smaller. That's no guarantee of quality but all that I've purchased from them so far have been fine. Knock on wood.

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artemis_ma

I solved my chicken breast issue by not buying them....

Actually, I did make good ones using sous vide, and I used skin-on breasts for that endeavor. (Still overall prefer the dark meat...)

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sushipup1

We've gotten tough thighs from the local Giant store recently, so we're no longer buying meat from there. I'm going to see what Costco has, in bulk, but smaller packages that I can freeze. Costco seems to have been quality control. Giant is crap. There is also the great butcher shop, but it's in the other direction that I usually go, and they have very little other groceries.

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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I had that happen when I bought non organic. Since switching ( 3 years ago), no issues. I went through the Pork is not the Other White Meat thing too. We all put on pounds including the dog but are lean again. Now, lol, tilapia is the other white meat.

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Olychick

I swear by Mary's Organic Chicken (breasts, whole, all forms) if you can find it in your stores. They are the closest to chicken-as-I-remember-it, besides local, farmer raised that I've found.

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John Liu

Are we down on pork?

I love pork, some cuts are nice and fatty, and it is so much more affordable than beef.


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seagrass_gw

I live in Massachusetts. They practically give away pork here. Chicken legs and thighs are cheap, as well. The price of beef is seldom worth it. Very rarely do we buy chicken breasts but I prefer bone in skin on.

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Islay Corbel

Love pork. I think in general, we have to judge how the animals are raised and limit meat eating to only the good stuff. We hear horrendous things over here about how chickens are raised your side....how they are bred to have breasts that are so big the birds can't stand up and the laws about what animals can be given in terms of hormones, drugs etc.....we are very afraid about Trump and trade deals etc......perhaps papers exaggerate.....we eat less meat but quality meat. I could never be vegetarian but we do eat more veggie meals during the week.

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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I love pork too but my body doesn't! Too many calories

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foodonastump

Interesting about the “woody breast” and I’m not sure if I should be happy or not that others are experiencing this. Happy in that it’s not a sign of my grocers or my cooking being particularly bad.

Pork... I don’t know, we keep being told to limit red meat. I suppose leaner red meat is healthier than fatty red meat, and I do tend to buy lean, but even so I think we’re supposed to limit it. Maybe someone more knowledgeable will have something to add here.

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sushipup1

I just know that the mere phrase "woody b00bs" made my day.

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annie1992

We just picked up a whole pig that we had slaughtered and packaged, so we're definitely not "down" on pork, LOL. I admit that I've pretty much lost my taste for bacon or ham, and I don't know why. They are OK and I'll eat them, but I'm not crazy about it, like many in today's bacon crazy world. The calories depend on the cuts, of course. If you eat the lean pork loin there is 154 calories in 4 ounces, and 124 calories in 4 ounces of chicken breast. However 4 ounces of boneless/skinless have 160 calories, according to Tyson, the chicken producers, so more than the pork loin. Now, if you're eating something fatty, like ribs, all bets are off! The trick is to eat 4 ounces, which is another problem in today's society where I see signs advertising 32 ounce steaks and 24 ounce pork chops. That should feed a family of 6, at least!

I raise my own chickens precisely because of the issues Islay noted, I'm offended by the way animals are raised and treated. If I had to eat commercial beef, I'd give up beef, the process is that horrible.

Now, I know that not everyone, or even a majority, can raise their own food, it's a luxury that I don't take for granted. I haven't experienced a problem with my own home raised chicken, but I generally think that chicken breast has approximately the same texture as a kitchen sponge, and the sponge tastes better. (grin) So I wait until I have company and then make the chicken breast and everyone is happy. Even when I raise(d) the Cornish Cross I had them outside waddling about their enclosure and eating grass, and they had to waddle back to get to their water source and into the coop at night so they did not have the leg problems and respiratory issues that commercially raised birds do, so they didn't require the antibiotics to keep from falling over dead. And, although you see those big "hormone free" stickers on commercial chicken, that's misleading. Hormones are not beneficial to poultry and it's illegal to use them in the United States. So companies are touting the fact that they aren't using something that's illegal to use anyway, and the consumers are, apparently, impressed with that, it's a selling point. Pffft.

Annie

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carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b

I buy organic too, and haven't had any issues like that, but the only breasts I buy are in Trader Joe's Organic family pack, which is 2 skin on bone in breasts and 4 drumsticks. The only other breast meat I buy is part of whole organic chickens, and those are never tough either.

Makes me wonder, tho - doesn't 'tougher' meat mean the animal is exercising that body part? Are these free range, perhaps?

Or might it be a specific breed, or breeds, of chicken?

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plllog

Carol, according to John's article, it's about accelerated growth. It's like the strawberry discussion: They want fast predictable growth so they make the chickens out of chemicals. I won't buy them.

I do like chicken breasts. I like chicken, and I like white meat, though I'll eat the whole thing. I've never had the sponge problem, nor the woody, but even Mary's organic free range chickens can be tough if allowed to grow too big (and old). They aim the pasture grown and heirloom chickens for over five pounds with heavy bones and tough meat. I prefer under four pounds and tender. I guess that's not as profitable for them. We have another grower who do sell young chickens but they're plastic wrapped and I don't care for that.

I wish they'd all stop monkeying with the food. When I was young, food was made out of food, and it was a lot better. A bigger bite of the family budget, but reliably good quality.


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chase_gw

I have been unhappy with pre butchered , pre packaged chicken for some time now, both here and at home in Canada ..... so it is not a local thing.

What I have been doing for a few months now is buying a whole chicken and asking the butcher to section it for me as two breasts and two legs plus thighs ( 4 pieces in total ). Surprisingly they don't object.

The results have been noticeable...don' t ask me why.

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catticusmockingbird

I only buy Bell & Evans boneless, skinless breasts. No problems with taste or texture.

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Compumom11

Chase I love that idea! Same problem here too. I've had better luck with organic chicken breasts from Whole Foods or a brand called Shelton is excellent. So is Jidori. Both are smaller breasts from small producers.

UPDATE: I BOUGHT JIDORI CHICKEN BREASTS and broiled them last night. OH, WHAT DIFFERENCE FROM THE WOODY STUFF. DH kept saying this is the best chicken I've had in a long time. It might be a locally sourced item available at Gelson's, an upscale supermarket chain, but definitely worth the upcharge.

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plllog

Why would the butchers object to cutting up your chicken? Isn't that why they're there? My big issue is that I ask them to cut the spine leaving the pelvis on the thighs instead of "restaurant style" but by the time they do it, they forget. :)

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sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)

Never have heard the term 'woody'. Though haven't purchased from a basic grocery meat/fish counter in a couple decades. I need to know where it is from and how it is tended. *

So definitely a quality issue. And under 4lbs like plllog mentioned. I have to see a farm/brand on any package. I can look it up and make an informed opinion. Costco organic is good. Not as free-range as one would like but the at least the birds are small, get fresh air, have some sunny window, wiggle room, lol. We roast a whole bird rarely but do prefer the thighs best. Just can't get to the local farm with all the snowstorms recently so the freezer is void of chicken, just stock. So I did pick up boneless skinless thighs from Costco recently craving Adobo chicken. They were tiny and excellent. Packaged well and still frozen. Not expensive.

Sticker shock on good steak but we just eat less meat. Same with fish and pork. Get the best and eat less. Whole fresh food, nothing processed. I do buy frozen vegetables every Winter. No way could I grow enough peas for the cold months. Even those purchased frozen I check the farm/location. Spinach, limas, peas, shelled edamame, all great frozen. Still have lots of fresh frozen corn and garden tomatoes.

*sure we can't avoid some junk randomly. Just not at home. I can't control random lunch out and about.



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leahikesgardenspdx

The Wall Street Journal has two articles on this very problem, the first on March 10 and the second on March 12. Here are a few quotes from the 3/10/19 article:

"Chicken companies spent decades breeding birds to grow rapidly and
develop large breast muscles. Now the industry is spending hundreds of
millions of dollars to deal with the consequences ranging from squishy
fillets known as “spaghetti meat,” because they pull apart easily, to leathery ones known as “woody breast.”

The abnormalities pose no food safety risk, researchers and
industry officials say. They are suspected side effects of genetic
selection that now allows meat companies to raise a 6.3-pound bird in 47
days, roughly twice as fast as 50 years ago, according to the National
Chicken Council."

"Spaghetti meat—a name researchers have given chicken breast fillets
that can be picked up and pulled apart by hand, or punctured easily with
a fingertip—began appearing in 2015 and now can be detected in around
4% to 5% of breast meat samples, researchers said.

"It looks like spaghetti noodles,” said Dr. Casey Owens, a
University of Arkansas professor, adding that the affected muscle fibers
have a stringy texture.

Researchers also began observing white striping in commercially
raised chickens around 2010, with woody breast appearing on the scene
around 2013, Dr. Petracci said. Woody breast has been found in around
10% of samples, while white striping occurs in around 30% of chicken
breasts sampled, he said. The severity of the problems can vary widely
and often doesn’t affect the entire breast, researchers said.

Meat scientists said they suspect the rapid growth rate of
commercially raised chickens may lead breast muscle tissue to outgrow
the oxygen supply provided by chickens’ developing circulatory systems,
at which point muscle fibers can degrade. That can alter the density and
texture of the meat, they said."

From the 3/12/19 article:

"In its quest to grow ever-bigger chickens to meet growing
demand for white meat, the food industry has hit an unexpected problem.

The trouble isn't raising large-enough birds. A growing share
of broiler chickens—bred for meat, not to lay eggs—now can yield a pair
of breast fillets that are heavier than an entire bird was a few decades ago.
A rising number of those fillets are laced with hard fibers in a
condition the industry calls woody breast. It poses no threat to human
health, but it degrades the texture of the meat.

“It is more hard, and also more elastic, so you have to put
more energy in to chew on this kind of meat,” said Massimiliano
Petracci, a food scientist at Italy’s University of Bologna, who added
the condition has emerged in the U.S., Spain, the U.K., Brazil and
elsewhere.

He said roughly 5% to 10% of the boneless breast fillets sold world-wide are affected, and the meat is also “gummy.”"

I found all of this interesting because I have been unhappy with some of those chicken breasts, I really prefer thighs. https://www.wsj.com/articles/fast-growth-chickens-produce-new-industry-woe-spaghetti-meat-11552226401?mod=searchresults&page=1&pos=7  https://www.wsj.com/articles/bigger-chickens-bring-a-tough-new-problem-woody-breast-1459207291


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plllog

While I was in the car this afternoon, I remembered eating lunch out with friends. I think it was a salad, but maybe a sandwich, with a totally inedible chicken breast fillet. Not exactly rubbery or woody, but I can see how it might be what those are meant to convey. It was like a totally different, non-food substance. Not big, either. Tough because it's big organic chicken is perfectly normal, edible chicken, but old, like it would be happy in a stew or braise. Bumblebeez is right. They can't give them those growth stimulators if they're organic. They have to choose bigger breeds and let them eat for another few weeks. :)

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laceyvail

Just to clarify some terms and beliefs about chicken. All meat chicken are Cornish Rock crosses. They are bred to put on weight fast. No growth hormones are permitted in any chicken raised in the US, so when Perdue claims "No growth hormones," it's just a marketing ploy. Cornish/Rock cross is used for fully industrial birds, organic birds and non organic raised to give them slightly more room per bird in the chicken house.

Also, NO meat birds (organic or otherwise) are or can be "free range." They put on weight so fast that they can hardly walk and never leave the hen house-- and they are processed when about 6 weeks old. (This is not true of layers--they can and should be free range.) The only birds I am aware of that are actually outside, have access to insects and live on clean grass, are those raised in the system called Pastured poultry, a technique developed by brilliant farming maverick Joel Salatin, in which the birds live in low, floorless cages which the farmer moves daily, with the birds waddling along inside, to a clean patch of pasture. (I was involved with growing, processing and selling these birds in the late 90s and early 2000 when it was a relatively new farming technique. I still buy my chicken from a young couple who grow Pastured Poultry--about an hour drive from my home.)

I avoid commercially raised chicken completely.

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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Annie, you are right about the calories but crispy pork fat is my kryptonite so a roasted pork loin has too much temptation! Same with a rotisserie chicken, I'll eat the wings and skin like a starving person.


I flash pan seared organic breasts last night, and they were tiny! Tasty and tender too.

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party_music50

Rubbery and sometimes enormous! I switched long ago and generally use chicken tenders when all I want is the breast/white meat. Much easier to pound too. :)

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petalique

I haven’t had this problem. Lately I have been buying bone-in, skin on whole chicken breasts deboning them myself. I use a flexible boning knife and it’s very easy and fast. I give the (chopped) skin and bones to my opossums.

I hydrate the now skinless, fatless and boneless chicken breast cutlets and/or 1.5” to 2” pieces in fresh cool water for about 25 minutes, drain, pat dry and cook them. Very tender. I use no batter. Sometimes I pan cook the cutlets. The large dice pieces I use in wok “fry” (only a little oil) such as kung pao or curry.

While the thighs have more of a certain flavor profile, it require more time to painstakingly remove all the fat and sinew. The meat itself is higher in fat (which don’t want).

with the hydrating technique, I’ve enjoyed a lot of melt-in-your-mouth flavorful chicken.

I LOVE Pork and it is versatile. I love the fat, but choose to avoid it. I also love spring lamb. Seldom eat it as it is pricey and fatty. I used to make my recipe for ~ Middle Eastern shawarma grilled outdoors. I make a marinade/dressing with yogurt, oil, spices and herbs. It makes a delicious pita sandwich when combined with a salad. I haven’t made it for a while ;-(

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John Liu

A suggestion and a question.

Suggestion: print a copy of the wood breast article and bring it, along with the inedible breast, to return said meat to the grocer. If they won't refund your money, send article plus complaint to the company. You'll probably get a refund, eventually.

Question: can anyone suggest a recipe that really shows off the difference in flavor between an expensive organic/free/etc bird and a cheap monster-size/factory bird? I'd like to make the same dish with one bird of each type and serve both to the family and see if they notice the difference.

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Gooster

Interesting article on "woody breast" -- it lead me to this one HERE. And interesting background on pastured chicken, as well. It seems with the suspected cause being related to genetics, that it really comes down to how well the resulting tough breast meat is screened (which could be correlated to price).

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carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b

Maybe try roasting the 2 types of chicken seasoned only with salt and pepper?

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Islay Corbel

I was going to say what Carol said. Roasted is a good leveller.

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plllog

Another vote for roasted.


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dcarch7 d c f l a s h 7 @ y a h o o . c o m

Yes, Islay Corbel, but we don't have volaille de Bresse here.

For best fresh (live) seafood, go to France or go to a Chinese restaurant.

For best chicken, also France or go to a Chinese restaurant.

dcarch


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foodonastump

Thanks for all the responses, this is so interesting that it’s such an acknowledged issue in the industry. I might try organic brands, etc. to look for more consistency. Higher price is cheaper than giving to the dog. I’m reminded of one brand that I can occasionally buy in bulk on sale; that I’ve always found good. Maybe I can get it there at regular price, too, worth a shot. (It’s a butcher that sells both retail and wholesale.)

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John Liu

I'll roast then cut up. I want this to be a blind test and it is too obvious which bird is which if they are whole. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Devito. But if you diced them into cubes, the taste testers could do a single blind cannibal comparo.

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laceyvail

I would just like to add again, that it is not the organicness of the ration that makes the difference in the quality/taste of the bird, it is the production method. You are not likely to find much difference in taste between organic and full industrial, but you most certainly will between pastured birds (which are usually NOT technically organic) and conventional organic and/or industrial.

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carolb_w_fl_coastal_9b

IMPE, there is often a taste difference in the meat. Organic tends to have better flavor - again, IMPE.

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plllog

I don't agree, Laceyvail. Regular free range organic and pasture bred from the same grower do tast different, but not hugely so, whereas both are seriously different from the big industrial stuff. There aren't many foods I find a big difference in organic, other than if they're not cheating the fact that it supports sustainable practices, but chicken and strawberries, both of which we've been discussing, are two where it makes a big difference in taste and texture. I'm sure you're right that it's the way they're bred and grown that makes the difference rather than the kind of pesticides used, but the differences do go along with the label.

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sleevendog (5a NY 6aNYC NL CA)

"You are not likely to find much difference in taste between organic and full industrial, ..."

I also cannot wrap my head around that one. The whole point of this thread is inedible chicken. The woody stuff.

If industrial/caged/stuffed in cages is ONE and pasture raised is TEN, then the 2-9 in-between has a bit of play. Organic on the higher scale 8-9 will be far superior than the 2-3 closer to industrial. So many variables in an educated choice.

Really no way to fairly test side-by-side. Different fat content and thickness. Water content will affect the cooking time. SousVide maybe.


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plllog

We used to, a few years ago, get chickens which weren't "organic" because their feed wasn't so tightly controlled. They were free range, as in could walk in and out and peck if they wanted to (I have no illusions about picturebook farmyards--I've seen the real pictures--they live in sheds with enclosed yards they can go in and out of). They ate some bugs. Mostly they ate corn, IIRC, grain anyway, but they tasted better than the officially organic ones. I always figured it was the bugs. :)

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John Liu

Maybe I should dice Arnold and Danny before the slow braise.

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Islay Corbel

I think you should roast them whole. Braising means liquid which will alter the taste.

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bragu_DSM 5

It is a defense mechanism. The gallus gallus domesticus is evolving to become a less desirable foodstuff for humanity. Preservation of the species ...

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annie1992

Dave, maybe you're right, but truthfully, if they were bigger, the chickens would eat US, they'll eat nearly anything, they are omnivores. That's why I smile when someone asks me if I feed my chickens vegetarian feed. They go outside, it's not like they aren't going to eat bugs, LOL.

Mine do have an outside fenced enclosure, with a netted top, but they do get moved from spot to spot to have fresh grass and I let them out only when I can "babysit". I had too many chickens become dinner for the neighbor's dogs, for the owl that lives in the barn, for marauding raccoons. For their own defense, they had to become "pastured" rather than "free range". They do love being allowed into the garden, though....

I think chicken is a little bland, truthfully, and by the time it's sauced up with lemon or a bunch of garlic, who can tell? But I like to think that my chickens who get to wander about and eat bugs, weeds, grass and garden produce taste better than the "organic" chickens who still just sit inside a barn and get fed organic food, but never actually go outside and eat a tomato worm. Of course, I think the eggs from the pastured hens taste better than those pale yellow grocery store eggs too, and others disagree with me. Heck, my own brother won't eat a brown egg because it tastes different than a white egg. Yeah, I keep telling him it's not brown vs white it's commercial vs home raised but he doesn't believe me.

Annie

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Islay Corbel

For me the difference between a chicken that has been running about and one that has been stuck inside is this. The running hird will have a thicker skin which will crisp up beautifully when roasted and the meat will be firm and tasty as opposed to the meat that is insipid and falls off as there's no real substance or muscle.

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artemis_ma

Anyone else having chicken breast issues?

My nice laying hens have small breasts, which they do not find uncomfortable, nor need bras to contain.

The rooster seems not to mind.

;)



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plllog

LOL at the brown vs. white flavor!

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annie1992

Yeah, I have some blue and green egg layers too, he won't even try those. (grin) And, of course, he won't eat any colored tomato except red. He's not very interesting (or adventurous!).

Annie

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John Liu

(Edited to add DD's comment and SWMBO's revised comment)

I went to Fred Meyers, a moderately upscale grocery store, because I wanted to buy the two birds in the same store, and Whole Foods doesn't have factory birds while the cheaper stores don't have organic birds).

There I bought two chickens. One was the standard Foster Farms chicken, $1.70/lb. The other was an "organic, free range" chicken, but not any particular brand that I've heard of, $2.70/lb. Both weighed about 5.5 lb. I spatchcocked them, sprinkled lightly with salt, and roasted at 400F until the breast was about 165F. Very plain, boring preparation; I'm not bragging about the culinary aspect of this!

Then I cut slices of breast and fed them to DS and SWMBO.

DS thought one tasted a little "eggy", he couldn't explain what he meant, that was the organic free-range chicken. SWMBO thought the organic chicken was moister.

I tasted the breasts and didn't notice any meaningful difference; the organic free-range piece was a tiny bit moister but no actual flavor difference.

DD came home and I fed her the two brests, diced. She said the chicken in the blue bowl tasted more "chickeny", that was the organic bird, and the chicken in the red bowl tasted more "diluted", that was the Foster Farms bird.

Note that I don't know if comparing two Foster Farms birds or two organic birds would have resulted in greater or lesser difference.

We weren't doing an elaborate tasting ceremony, but this probably represents about as much palate and attention as we normally bring to an average dinner.

I will repeat this test with a more expensive, fancier organic bird, if I can find a Mary's or a pasture raised heritage or similar, and a crappier factory bird, if I can find something more pedestrian quality than Foster Farms.

Here are the birds before roasting. Organic has twine tied around the left leg (the chicken's left), factory has twine tied around the right leg.

Here are the birds after roasting. I confess I basted with melted butter and hit the torch just a bit, because I couldn't help myself, the roasted birds looked just too boring.


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John Liu

Oh, as you can see from the photos, there wasn't any real difference in body shape. They were both equally rotund and the breasts were about equal sized. The organic free range bird was a little yellower and had slightly more subcutaneous fat.

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John Liu

A friend sent me this https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4838835/

I have not read it thoroughly - there are many terms I don't recognize - but it seems to be saying there are indeed some nutritional differences between organic and conventional meat.

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plllog

Nice test. FWIW, I would agree with your daughter that in my non-blind taste the "better" flavor of the organic free range is "chickenyness". It's not a huge deal, but makes all the difference. I see nothing wrong with making the chickens look appetizing! That shouldn't affect the breast meat. :)

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