How to Make Heads or Tails of Chicken

How to Make Heads or Tails of ChickenBuying poultry should not be complicated. It’s a chicken or it’s a turkey. Lately, though, it seems like there are so many more options and labels attached to poultry. How can you make heads or tails of chicken to know exactly what you are buying?

We’ve put together a quick list of some of the more frequently used labels for poultry to try to make things more clear:

Fresh means that the temperature of the poultry has never fallen below 26 degrees. Chicken and turkey freeze at a lower temperature than water.

The natural label means that the poultry has no artificial ingredients, chemical preservatives, or coloring, and is minimally processed. It does not refer to how it is raised.

All Vegetable Diet
Most poultry feed is made from corn and soybean meal but can sometimes contain meat or poultry by-products which are good sources of healthy vitamins. Poultry that is given feed that does not contain any of these products can be labeled as All Vegetable Diet or Veggie Fed.

Hormone Free
This is one of those labels that can be misleading. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved any hormones or steroids for use in raising poultry for food. It is illegal to sell poultry in the US that was raised using hormones. Manufacturers can’t add a “No Hormones” label on any package poultry unless it’s accompanied by a disclaimer that says, “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.”

All poultry raised in the US for their meat are farm-raised. The use of this label is for marketing purposes only to conjure up bucolic images of the farm.

Organic means that the poultry has only been fed certified organic feed. It also means that the chicken is free-range and has not been given antibiotics. In general, the processing practices are the same for conventional and organic poultry.

Free-range refers to poultry that has access to the outdoors. The amount of access varies depending on the farm. All organic chicken is free-range but not all free-range chicken is organic.

If your poultry is pasture-raised that means that it is primarily raised outdoors in pastures.

Retained Water
Retained water statements on poultry refer to the water that can be absorbed during the chilling process.

To ensure food safety, all poultry must be cooled to a certain temperature. This can be done two ways, immersion in a cold water bath or by air chilling. Air chilling has been a European practice for some time and has only recently become popular in the US.

Air-Chilled means that the bird is individually chilled over the course of 3 hours. The birds are moved into carefully monitored chilling rooms where purified air cools them down.

Because the birds are not processed in water, air-chilled do not have the opportunity to absorb that water which results in a more flavorful and tender bird.

Since the birds are processed individually, air-chilling also reduces the potential exposure of harmful bacteria from other birds.

At Piedmont Grocery we only sell Mary’s Chicken.
It’s organic, free-range, and air-chilled. Because they are raised the old-fashioned way, they taste amazing. Plus Mary’s makes every effort to treat their chickens and humanely as possible.

Here are some of our favorite chicken recipes from our blog, The Kitchen Table.

Citrus Marinated Chicken Tacos
This Citrus Marinated Chicken Tacos recipe is one I made for my very first Cinco de Mayo celebration 20 years ago. It’s an oldie but a goodie. I have been known to add a little tequila to the marinade when I’m feeling sassy…

Bundt Pan Rotisserie Chicken
This recipe is genius. Of course, this would be great, it’s Rotisserie Chicken in your home oven. Brilliant! And it looks weird which is always an excellent reason to make anything—if only to keep people guessing about your mad scientist cooking skills…

Tandoori Chicken
My boys are growing up. This means that their tastes have progressed beyond chicken nuggets to the good stuff like this…

Amy’s Preferred Chicken Pot Pie
I love Chicken Pot Pie. It’s up there in my top 20. And I am pretty militant about what makes a good one. And, I have tried many different versions, and I know which one I prefer.

Slow-Cooker Chicken Mole
Mole is one of the most iconic and flavorful dishes of Mexico. And, this delicious Chicken Mole recipe makes life a little easier.

Chicken Tamale Pie
This recipe is super-easy and tasty, and can be easily doubled (or tripled) for a large crowd. As a bonus, the leftovers (if there are any) make a great breakfast with scrambled eggs.

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