Finding Out How Fresh Are Your Chicken

Foods & DrinksFood

  • Author Jason Swanson
  • Published May 24, 2009
  • Word count 541

DETERMINING THE AGE OF CHICKEN.--An excellent way in which to determine the age of a chicken that has been dressed consists in feeling of the breast bone at the point where it protrudes below the neck. In a very young chicken, a broiler, for instance, the point of this bone will feel like cartilage, which is firm, elastic tissue, and may be very easily bent. If the bird is about a year old, the bone will be brittle, and in a very old one it will be hard and will not bend.

If the head has been left on, the condition of the beak is a means of determining age. In a young chicken, it will be smooth and unmarred; in an old one, it will be rough and probably darker in color. If the feet have been left on, they too will serve to indicate the age. The feet of a young chicken are smooth and soft; whereas, those of an old bird are rough, hard, and scaly. The claws of a young one are short and sharp; but as the bird grows older they grow stronger and become blunt and marred with use. The spur, which is a projection just above the foot on the back of each leg, is small in the young chicken, and increases in size as the age increases. However, the spurs are more pronounced in males than in females.

Another way of telling the age of dressed chicken is to observe the skin. After plucking, young birds usually have some pin feathers left in the skin. Pin feathers are small unformed feathers that do not pull out with the larger ones. Older birds are usually free from pin feathers, but have occasional long hairs remaining in the skin after the feathers have been plucked. These do not pull out readily and must be singed off when the chicken is being prepared for cooking.

DETERMINING THE FRESHNESS OF CHICKEN.--There are a number of points that indicate whether or not a chicken is fresh. In a freshly killed chicken, the feet will be soft and pliable and moist to the touch; also, the head will be unshrunken and the eyes full and bright. The flesh of such a chicken will give a little when pressed, but no part of the flesh should be softer than another. As actual decomposition sets in, the skin begins to discolor. The first marks of discoloration occur underneath the legs and wings, at the points where they are attached to the body. Any dark or greenish color indicates decomposition, as does also any slimy feeling of the skin. The odor given off by the chicken is also an indication of freshness. Any offensive odor, of course, means that the flesh has become unfit for food.

LIVE CHICKENS.--Occasionally chickens are brought to the market and sold alive. This means, of course, that the birds are subjected to a certain amount of fright and needless cruelty and that the work of slaughtering falls to the purchaser. The cost, however, is decreased a few cents on the pound. Such birds must be chosen first of all by weight and then by the marks that indicate age, which have already been given.

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