Very dark meat?

trainman

Songster
6 Years
Jul 22, 2014
84
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Huntsville, AR
I'm new to raising backyard chickens. I've raised 2 separate flocks so far and have put up most in the freezer. One group was Black Australorps and the other White Rocks. I processed both groups when they were around 7-8 months old. Both seem to have had very dark meat throughout. The white meat is about the shade of store bought chicken thighs. The thighs and legs are very dark almost a deeper brown.

Is this normal for free range chicken meat? The taste is great. The texture is fine but they are somewhat tough. The fat isn't yellow but is clear.

I feed them Scratch And Peck organic feed and they also get whatever they find ranging around the 20 acres of farm.

I'm just curious about it all! Thanks for any answers.

Trainman
 

donrae

Hopelessly Addicted
Premium Feather Member
9 Years
Jun 18, 2010
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I think it's pretty normal. this is a pic of a dual purpose carcass from one of my roosters, you can see the meat is fairly dark. Store bought CX are like veal compared to an older bird that has been allowed to move about and actually exercise their muscles.
 

trainman

Songster
6 Years
Jul 22, 2014
84
132
136
Huntsville, AR
That looks like what my chickens look like. I was told by a former FDA Poultry Inspector that the organic feed I feed them can also cause this as well as a heavy diet of clover. My flock gets a lot of clover on my farm and only gets the Scratch and Peck organic layer feed so maybe that contributes to the color too. Who really knows?

Thanks for the response.
trainman
 

MysteriaSdrassa

Chirping
May 26, 2015
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Central Wisconsin
Commercial meat chickens are raised in very small pens with barely enough room to move around and at an astonishing growth rate. They are fed a commercial diet and probably wouldn't know what a bug was if they saw one. The combination of these factors causes the meat to be less tough and creamy colored with a somewhat bland taste, because they have not developed fully.
Now on the other hand,, your home raised free ranging birds are going to be out exercising their muscles and running around eating bugs and green stuff and other good stuff that chickens were meant to eat. All this good stuff they are eating is going to add flavor to their meat and give it a nice healthy dark color. The exercise they get of course will make the meat slightly tougher but so much better tasting.
 

cstronks

Songster
Mar 12, 2013
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New Jersey
7 to 8 months for slaughter is pretty long. That is why the meat is darker and tougher than what you see in the store. Most commercial cornish X hens are slaughtered at 8-12 weeks depending on the manufacturer. I believe the Perdue Cross Hens are killed at 10 weeks. These birds are generally still in the pullet/youth stage and are very tender. If you plan on raising meat birds, you'll have to make a decision between older/larger birds with tougher meat and younger/smaller birds with tender, white meat. This is why meat birds like cornish X are so popular. They get huge quickly and are ready for slaughter at a young age.

And for your last question, yes, this is very typical of free range meat. It is a healthy, well built, strong bird you have raised. In my opinion, as long as it doesn't look the same as the stuff in the grocery store, then you're doing something right!
 

trainman

Songster
6 Years
Jul 22, 2014
84
132
136
Huntsville, AR
Thanks for the good answers. I knew they were healthy and so we consumed them. We have done several different batches and tried different breeds since then and they are all the same except the last batch. They were Cackles' Red Broilers. They are awesome table birds! Same dark and tougher meat but they grew fast and added weight in about 8 weeks. The one rooster that was savvy enough to escape capture and the knife has found a home and he's truly HUGE!.We have some Light Brahmas and thought they were big but those Red Broilers dwarfed them.

We discovered the taste of all our free ranged chickens is so much better than the store birds and they have smaller breasts, legs and all other parts. We also found that if we brine them over night before eating they are fairly tender. Doing soups and stews a pressure cooker really makes them come out tender without sacrificing any flavor.

I live in an area where Tyson has a zillion chicken houses and we see the poor things going down the road to the factory. Pretty sickly looking creatures. I hope as long as I live I can raise my own meat and egg birds and know I'm eating healthy.

Thanks to all,
Trainman
 

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