soft vs. rigid chicken : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

I bought some store chicken today (whole fryers) and I noticed they were soft and supple. Our own chickens always get so rigid and stiff, and they are not soft like the store chicken. Does this happen during butchering, or is it something they are missing in feed? I wondered if longer plucking time had anything to do with it. By the time I gut them, they are stiff, and I have to force their legs to bend. How can we prevent this? Also, the skin looked more supple on these store chickens, and had a larger layer of fat under it, not too much, but more than mine. Any ideas? Thanks, Mary

-- Mary Fraley (, July 05, 2001


Hi, Mary. You can't prevent it. It's rigor mortis, what any body goes through during cellular death. I forget exactly what the process is, but it has to do with the muscles using up the last available energy (ATP's) and then the muscle fibers "freezing" in place when the fuel is gone and no more being supplied because the animal is dead. Stiff muscle fibers = stiff chicken. It comes on gradually and wears off gradually as other processes in the chain of decomposition come into play. Store bought chickens, of course, went through this process days before so you don't see it in them. It's been quite awhile since I had a physiology class, but I think that's a ball park explanation.

As far as the skin, probably they are fed differently than you feed yours. More calories equals more fat (sure works that way with me! ;)

Jennifer L.

-- Jennifer L. (Northern NYS) (, July 05, 2001.

I'm not an expert (4 COrnish slaughtered so far), but I'v enoticed chilling it in a bowl of ice water every few minutes helps (I set it right next to the hot water for scalding). As I butcher, I leave the pieces in the water until ready to freeze, or cook.

Brendan in IA

-- Brendan K Callahan (, July 05, 2001.

If a chicken gets more exercise, her muscles develop strength, which means firmer meat. Those chickens in the store are raised in 2'by 2' cages, packed so tightly that if they would sit down, they would get trampled to death. They have to learn to sleep standing up, leaning on their cellmates. Also, those chickens are only 8 weeks old, at the oldest. They are of a heavier breed, that grows extremely fast, making big chicken size with baby chicken tenderness. But the flavor is another subject. What can you expect out of a chicken that has never even seen the sunshine? Never seen a blade of green grass? Never even walked two steps without bumping into wire mesh? Those chickens you buy at the store are raised breathing air that is so thick with fecal dust that the workers have to wear masks or choke. ... and then, when they are killed, they are electrocuted, in order to further soften the meat, to prevent rigor mortis. The chickens are flailed with rubber fingers to pluck them, and in the meantime, they are covered with fecal material. After plucking, the chickens are put into tanks of water to cool them. The fecal matter in those tanks is so thick that it settles on the bottom in a thick layer of sludge. The meat absorbs the fecal soup as it sits there to cool. The final weight of the package of meat you pay for may be up to 7% absorbed fecal soup. After cooling, the meat goes into heavily chemicalised treatments, to try to decontaminate the meat. That's why it smells funny and makes your skin burn if you handle it.

(I know, all this is disgusting, but SOMEONE should be exposing what our food goes through before it gets onto the supermarket shelves, all packaged nicely.)

I have found that even my 2 year old hens taste wonderful and are surprisingly tender if I chill them in the fridge at least overnight, and then crock pot them on low all day. Ohhhh my, it smells like my mom's cooking!

-- daffodyllady (, July 05, 2001.

Daffodyllady, thank you for writing that!! Because I was only today thinking that maybe I shouldn't go to the trouble of trying to raise rabbits for meat, since in this area we can buy chicken leg quarters for 29 cents/lb on sale and sometimes even 19 cents/lb. After reading about the fecal soup I know I'm gonna go look at rabbits to buy tomorrow!!

-- Elizabeth in E TX (, July 06, 2001.

The breeds they use for commercial meat production are the cornish rock cross.If you are raising another breed that might be why they are not like the store chickens.I tried raising some cornish X this year and I don't like the soft meat and the way the legs pop off so easy when dressing them.They seem to me like they are a genetic mistake from to much gene tampering .Yet it seems alot of people like these cause they are similar to store chicken in taste and texture.If you are not raising the cornish X, that is the reason they are not as mushy as those store bought.

-- SM Steve (, July 06, 2001.


I only disagree with you on the method in which store-purchased chickens are raised. As far as I know, none are raised in cages as it would be too expensive. They are raised in broiler houses which may contain 5,000 birds. They are raised on a litter, such as sawdust. They do have room to move around. Most houses have side panels which can be raised for ventilation. When ready to be processed, normally a crew (usually migrant labor) comes in, herds them in a corner, grab two with each hand and put them in cages to go to the processor.

I think you were thinking of egg farms, where the chickens are packed together in cages. After a laying cycle those end up in processed meat products, such as chicken pot pies. At one time, due to a glut of broilers on the market, these were selling for $.03 pound.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, July 06, 2001.

Ken, I do believe you are right!

-- daffodyllady (, July 06, 2001.

I agree with Ken on everything he said except the 'room to move around' part; course its a matter of opinion, but I see broiler and turkey houses every day, and they're pretty much packed like sardines in there.

I've raised thousands of chickens for 11 years, selling direct to consumers. My birds are always aged for 48 hours before they are used or frozen. Turkeys get 4 days. This tenderizes the meat, but even Cornish Crosses don't become mushy when they are raised on pasture.

-- Earthmama (, July 06, 2001.

Ok, I have to jump back in here. My chickens are raised on pasture in moveable cages, and I raise Cornish cross. I feed them broiler feed from the local feed store. The chicken I purchased was from a company that produces them naturally, raised outside in larger lots and no hormones/antibiotics. So why the difference? Mary

-- Mary Fraley (, July 06, 2001.

Mary, how were the chickens slaughtered? If they were shocked immediately when beheaded, the meat is tenderised. Credit Ben Franklin for inventing the method.

-- daffodyllady (, July 06, 2001.

I'm not sure how they were slaughtered. I wouldn't mind trying the electric shock thing myself (after they were dead), if it worked to make soft chicken. I wouldn't know where to start though. Mary

-- Mary Fraley (, July 06, 2001.

Mary, the next time you butcher chickens, fast them for 24 hours before butchering. Hang them up upside down or use the jug/bottle method. Slit there throats and then immediately stick the knife into the back of there mouth and cut there spinal, this is suppose to make plucking and gutting them a lot easier and faster. Also for better flavour, feed them an all u can eat chopped corn diet for a week to two weeks before butchering.

-- Russell Hays (, July 07, 2001.

The person talking about rigor mortis is correct. You must let the meat age until the carcass goes thru this. After butchering and cutting up your chicken, put in on trays and cover with t-towels, then put in in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours. The stiffness will relax and then you can freeze the meat.

Beef, elk, deer are usually hung up for up to a week to accomplish this tenderizing.

-- Lynne A (, July 08, 2001.

Mary, I am a USDA Food Inspector, I inspect thousands of chickens every day. First the chicks are 6-8 weeks old raised in big chicken houses where they get hormons and special diets to help them grow fast. When they go to processor they are hung upside down in shackels and their beaks are run thru a water solution then their shocked which knocks them out. They proceed to a machine that slits their throat or cuts off their head and are bled out. While still warm they are evicerated, inspected, sent into a chiller filled with cold water approx. 50% for a couple of hours which is why they are soft and tender. If for some reason we require the chickens to be reprocessed before they come to us and they cool off they go into rigor mortis like yours and get stiff and cold. So if as soon as you kill your birds, pluck and gut them, you would put them in a bowl of ice water you would see a big difference this would age them nicely. I hope this helps you.

-- Wynema Passmore (, July 08, 2001.

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