The Economics of Buying a Whole Chicken
The only thing available to us is whole chickens, as we choose to raise and butcher chickens ourselves. For the first few years the only way I cooked chicken was by roasting it, eating it, then using the leftovers for sandwiches, soups, etc. Then I had this amazing brainwave. Why don’t I cut up the chicken, so that I can have different cuts to work with!
Liiiiightbulb. (I love the movie Despicable Me!)
So here is the parts all cut up in a picture. It looks a little crazy, but really, a whole bunch of cut up chicken? Why wouldn’t it be!
This chicken may not have been the best chicken to show, because the skin was a bit ripped from plucking. Bottom left you see wings and drumettes. Top left is breasts. Middle bottom is thighs (they’re huge!) Middle top is drumsticks. On the far right is the carcass, which still has lots of meat on, but when it gets boiled for stock, we’ll get all of those! And the very bottom left corner? That is Mac’s toes stepping up on his little art table. Which happens to have the best light in the house.
If you buy a whole chicken from a farm around here, you’re going to pay between $4 and $5 a lb. This was a 7.5 lb chicken and at $4.50 a lb you’ll be paying $33.75. That sounds like a lot, but look at the meat on it, it’s nice and dark, really flavourful, moist meat. There is no comparison. Yes, if you buy chicken breasts on a low low sale, you’ll pay $1.99 a lb. What does the farmer get when you pay that little? How can they support their family on that? They also won’t have much flavour. I can’t repeat how much there is no comparison.
Here is the breakdown on this 7.5lb chicken. I leave the skin and bone on everything. This just adds so much dimension. I’ve also added my educated guess on what each would cost to buy at our grocery store, of a fairly local company, but not of the same calibre that we raise. Ours are pasture and grain fed, but not organic.
1 lb 12 oz breasts. Yes, those beauties weigh darn near a pound each. $10
1 lb 3 oz drumsticks $4.50
1 lb 3 oz thighs $8
12 oz drumettes/wings $3
2 lb 13 oz carcass
(Yes, I know this is not quite 7.5 lbs, but I rounded it)
Once you boil the carcass (about 2 hours, until it falls apart), you’ll be able to pick off 2-3 cups of shredded meat and 6 litres stock. $6 for the shredded meat, and good quality stock is $4 a litre, so $24 for the stock, with addition of simply salt, peppercorns and bay leaf. I’m a fairly simple person for my stock.
So you paid $33.75 for this primo chicken, and you’ve gotten what you would have paid $55 for a lower calibre similar amount of chicken, if you bought it pre-cut up. It doesn’t take much to cut one up, it takes a bit of practice. I’m sorry I don’t have pictures for you, I didn’t want to get my camera covered in chicken juice, and I need two hands! Maybe I’ll bug my Mom to take pictures of me cutting one up.
Now you’re looking at this, and wondering what you would do with such little amounts of some of the items. This is where a bit of quantity comes into play. I’ll cut up two at a time, while still half frozen, then put them into seperate bags back in the freezer. I’ll maybe one to two chicken breasts for a meal, 4 thighs, 12 wings/drumettes, 3-4 drumsticks. I usually use half the shredded cooked chicken for a soup, and half of it for something like quesadillas or burritos. Even if you don’t put chicken in a soup, it’s still got the goodness of the chicken in it because you’ve made your beautiful stock. (I should probably write a post about that?) I don’t make meals with chicken breast where each person gets a whole breast, I’ll grill it, cut it up in the kitchen and split 2 breasts between 4 people. When it’s all cut up you don’t even notice. Soup is a very frugal but great for you food. It’s overlooked really, we eat a lot of soup in the winter, stockpiling the stock from the summer. It’s a fantastic way to use root veggies that are in season all winter.
Here it is on a larger scale. For example, if you cut up 3 chickens, you’d pay just over $100.
6 chicken breasts, 3-6 meals
6 drumsticks, 1 1/2 meals (4 for one meal, 2 to combine with thighs for another meal)
6 thighs, 1 1/2 meals (4 for one meal, 2 to combine with drumsticks for another meal)
12 drumettes/wings, 1 meal
6-9 c shredded cooked meat, 3-4 meals
18 litres stock, which would make atleast 9 soups, with the addition of some pretty inexpensive carrots, celery, maybe frozen chopped spinach, rice, pasta, potatoes, barley. All these grocery items are pretty darn frugal. Freeze it of course (or pressure can!) and use for soups or in other cooking.
Which is 19-23 meals and $4.5-$5.25 a meal for your meat in a meal. For good quality meat, that is fantastic. If you’re thinking that it’s expensive, then I need to explain to you how we feel about meat.
We eat wild, homegrown or local meats only. If we didn’t have this available to us, we’d be vegetarians. We ourselves kill 98% of the meat we eat. Same goes for butchering.
But seriously, we believe in eating meats that aren’t laden with hormones, aren’t grown on foods the animals weren’t meant to eat, raised by people who care about what they’re raising, and being raised in ethical, sustainable ways. Amen.
While you have to make a bit bigger of an investment, buying in ‘bulk’ and cutting it up yourself will be the much cheaper option in the long run!
I really encourage you to do this, to seek out a source for quality chickens, because once you’ve tasted one, you won’t regret it!