Supply and demand governs how the U.S. economy works and in the poultry market the demand is for food and convenience.
Wings, legs, breasts – any part of the chicken can be purchased separately. The cost of this process is evident in the higher price of these products, but preparing a whole chicken manually cost the consumer substantially less according to Trent Hamm of the Simple Dollar.
Hamm states that for a four pound chicken, an additional cost of $3 would be spent on vegetables to go with the chicken and another 50 cents spent on cooking materials to make many more meals than a regular pack of chicken breast.
“From that, you can produce a meal of chicken and vegetables to feed a family of four, a meal worth of leftovers, a bag of chicken pieces in the freezer for a future meal for a family of four, and a bag of chicken stock for another meal or two.” Hamm said.
In March 2017, a Perdue whole chicken is $1.76 per pound and the average broiler chicken, according to the National Chicken Council, weighs a little more than six pounds. That’s $10.56 for a whole chicken, but not all of that is meat.
Some consumers are intimidated to cook a whole chicken though there are many recipes for it. Cooking chicken parts separately is often easier and takes less time, but this leads Jessie Oleson Moore of Craftsy points out another problem with buying whole chickens.
Moore said that different parts of the chicken, the wings for example, take less time to cook than the chicken breasts thus, for some cooking methods, burning the wings and other smaller parts. Deboning the chicken evens out the cooking time and meats but can be a complicated process for an unexperienced cook and could potentially lead to wasted meat.
Parts of the chicken, specifically the thigh, leg and drumsticks contain dark meat which Justina Huddleston, a food writer for Menuism, many Americans do not like. Poultry processing companies have had to solve this problem since retailers began selling chicken parts instead of only whole chickens more than 50 years ago.
The U.S. exports some of the dark meat chicken parts to other countries, but exporting poultry is unpredictable because it depends on factors such as avian influenza and trade relations.
However, Huddleston reported that distinguished chefs and culinary experts have been influencing a trend in favor of dark meat chicken. New recipes, media articles and celebrity endorsements have been encouraging Americans to buy the formerly unpopular chicken parts.
A rise in demand for dark meat chicken could potentially affect the whole chicken and the chicken parts market, possibly raising the price of whole chickens while keeping white meat chicken stay the same.
Even if the dark meat food trends do not change prices, retailers will still occasionally mark down the price of chicken parts. For consumers who are solely focused on price, keeping track of sales and coupons on both chicken parts and whole chickens is the best option.
Housetohomestead.com calculated that 62 percent of the average whole chicken is meat. That meat is divided unevenly into eight different pieces, 30 percent of which is in the chicken breast.
According to the calculations, if a whole chicken was priced at more than $1.55 per pound then the ratio of meat would actually cost less than buying at the store price of around $4 dollars a pound for chicken breast.
Bethany Wright of Kitchenstewardship argues that buying a local, pasteurized whole chicken even at $18 dollars would still end up costing less per meal than buying an average priced chicken breast package from a retailer. Wright said that a whole chicken could make four meals for a family of four and the chicken’s bones could potentially make two gallons of chicken broth.
Taking into consideration that a normal recipe calls for 14.5 ounces of broth, having two gallons, or 128 ounces, would be around 17 meals worth of broth. This could save the consumer money, but in the long run, regularly purchasing and utilizing whole chickens could lead to an excess of broth.
Wright stated that using broth creatively in boiling rice and pasta can resolve this issue.