Chicken Math – How Much Meat is in a Whole Chicken?

In my turkey math post, I found that 60% of a whole turkey is meat parts. Naturally, I had to know if a chicken had the same composition.

I bought a 4.2-pound chicken for $0.76 per pound on sale, at a total cost of $3.20. Chicken thighs and legs usually cost about $1.30 per pound in my local stores. The price for boneless/skinless chicken breasts ranges widely, but I think I pay an average of about $4.00 per pound. Anyway, when I cut up the chicken, here’s what I got:

24%: 1.0 pounds of leg and thigh (skin on/bone in)
07%: 0.3 pounds of wings (skin on/bone in)
31%: 1.3 pounds of breast (skinless/boneless)
24%: 1.0 pounds of useful carcass (all skin and excess fat removed)
14%: 0.6 pounds of skin and waste

So, 62% of the chicken was meat parts. Considering measurement error, whole chickens and whole turkeys have about the same proportion of meat to waste. I’m kind of surprised. I thought the turkey would have proportionately more meat, since the turkey’s breasts and thighs seem relatively bigger than the chicken’s. As with the turkey, I actually use the carcass for stock, so it doesn’t go to waste.

Let’s evaluate the cost. Since I don’t ever buy chicken wings, I’m going to ignore them. So, I paid $3.20 for 1.0 pounds of leg/thigh and 1.3 pounds of breast meat. If I had bought that meat as parts at the local prices I mentioned above, I would have paid $1.30 for the legs and thighs, and $5.20 for the breasts, for a total of $6.50. Cutting up the chicken myself saved me $3.30. But, I wouldn’t have saved any money if the whole chicken had been priced at $1.55 per pound.

1. It’s not worth it to me to cut up a chicken for parts. I’ll try to stock up on whole chickens when they’re less than $1 per pound, but I’ll probably just cook the chickens whole (either in broth or by roasting).
3. I’m not going to worry so much about buying chicken legs and thighs when they’re on sale. They’re still a pretty good deal at $1.30 per pound.
4. I’m going to be extra diligent about buying chicken breasts when they’re on sale, since they’re relatively expensive. If I can’t get them on sale, I’ll just cook a whole chicken.
5. It’s worth it to me to cut up a turkey for parts. Although it’s a bigger project to cut up a turkey than a chicken, it doesn’t take that much longer, and I get 3.5 times more meat from a turkey than from a chicken.
6. I have an odd desire to quantitatively analyze poultry economics, but I think it might now be exhausted. 🙂

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