It seems American consumers have a renewed appreciation for dark meat—chicken thighs and drumsticks have never been so popular.
It’s something chefs have known for a long time: that the dark meat pieces of the chicken offer greater flavor and tenderness than white meat, and are less expensive to boot.
Thighs and legs have generally been the preferred chicken parts overseas, but in the U.S. for the last few decades, boneless skinless chicken breasts have kind of taken over on America’s pop charts.
One of the reasons that sentiment is starting to change is the proliferation of TV food shows touting the attributes of dark meat chicken—that dark meat is more forgiving, doesn’t dry out as quickly and is a better choice for the grill. The dark side of chicken works well ground up for burgers, or stirred into taco sauce or marinara, too.
The convenience and greater availability of boneless, skinless thighs is another major factor in the dark meat trend. New, automated equipment makes it more economical to debone leg quarters, where the work once had to be done painstakingly by hand.
There’s another change in attitude going on here. For decades, health experts have been promoting skinless breast meat as the smart, lower-fat and lower-calorie choice. Dark meat’s rise in the pecking order can be viewed as yet one more sign that Americans are choosing taste over health.
A spokesman for Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods, the nation’s number one chicken producer, says the company has seen strong sales growth with dark meat and is actively promoting it to “value-conscious customers.”
Yep, sales of dark meat chicken are definitely on the rise. You can mark it down as a bona fide trend. And guess what…prices of thighs and drumsticks are climbing as well. Recent government data shows prices rising nationwide for the parts of the chicken that poultry companies used to have trouble finding a market for.
Tastier, juicier and now pricier. Guess that’s the “dark” side of free market capitalism, right?
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