Tyson Foods bets on dark meat chicken

A batch of Tyson Foods chickens

Kai Ryssdal: On now to chicken. Dark meat, specifically.

It's generally a tough sell here in the United States. Those thighs and drumsticks used to get shipped overseas to Russia and China, mostly. Exports are down, though, so the poultry industry's trying to figure out how to market dark meat to picky American eaters. Marketplace's Adriene Hill reports.


Adriene Hill: Why aren't Americans all that in to thighs and drumsticks? Marcia Pelchat from the Monell Chemical Senses Center says there are a couple reasons.

Marcia Pelchat: In our culture, until very recently, white food was more pure, was more upper-class than brown food.

Seriously. That's a real thing.

Pelchat says there's something else: legs and thighs come with bones and skin.

Pelchat: And did look like part of an animal. And many people find that to be disgusting.

Richard Lobb: If you ask people, what do you like, white meat or dark meat, there's about a 2-1 preference for white meat.

Richard Lobb is with the National Chicken Council.

The poultry math just doesn't add up -- that's too many extra legs! American warehouses are filling up with dark meat. And chicken giant Tyson sees an opportunity marketing the cheaper cuts.

Craig Bacon is a Tyson V.P.

Craig Bacon: It just becomes a strategy that works well for consumers that are looking for value and they're trying to feed their family with maybe fewer dollars to spend.

Bacon says Tyson is also considering turning dark meat into other foods, like chicken sausage and chicken burgers -- food without all those "disgusting" bones.

I'm Adriene Hill for Marketplace.

About the author

Adriene Hill is the senior multimedia reporter for LearningCurve.

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