Most of the chickens that end up on the supermarket shelves and our tables are females (hens). There are a few reasons for this, as I will explain in this article.
Do we eat male chickens? We can eat male chickens, yes. Rooster meat is a little tougher and more stringy but is perfectly fine. It’s most expensive for farms to raise roosters for meat though.
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Why Are Male Chickens Not Suitable for Meat?
It’s not so much that male chickens are not suitable for meat. It’s more so that it’s more economical for farms and poultry breeders to produce and sell female chickens for meat production.
The chicken you see in supermarkets comes from “Broiler” chickens. Broiler is the term used for any chicken bred and raised specifically for meat production.
Broilers are kept together in a large warehouse. Often, as many as 20,000+ chickens will live under the same roof. There are of course measures in place to ensure they live to the best standard they can, but that’s a lot of chickens.
Hens are much more tolerant of each other than roosters are. If you’ve had a backyard rooster, you’ll know how aggressive one can be. Imagine trying to keep thousands under the same roof!
And mixing hens and roosters under the same roof wouldn’t be an option for obvious reasons. Combine that with the fact that rooster meat is a bit different, as in it’s tougher, and it becomes a logistical nightmare.
What Are Male Chickens Used For?
According to the RSPCA, when chicks are born at a hatchery they are sexed (this means to determine the sex of a chick) within a few days of being born.
Female chicks, as long as they are strong and healthy, are moved on to laying facilities if they are to be used to produce eggs. Or, if they are bred to be broilers they are moved on to live on a broiler farm.
Male chicks, unless specifically needed for breeding, are considered as “wastage” and disposed of.
It comes down to the financial cost of keeping them, as well as the logistics of housing or finding somewhere for the cockerel.
Hatcheries are in the meat and egg production business. Roosters are not able to lay eggs, and they are not needed for their meat. Therefore they are redundant.
If this is the first time you’re hearing this, it might be hitting you as hard as it did me. I was pretty devastated to think that millions of male chicks are culled every year.
In fact, according to Wikipedia, as of 2018 around 7 billion day-old, male chicks were being culled every year. That gives you some insight into the size of the poultry industry!
Are Male Chickens Killed?
Yes, for the most part, male chickens are killed or culled as it’s called in the poultry industry.
I’ve read some studies they say there will be tests in the not so distant future that will allow breeders to determine the sex of a chick long before hatching.
I can’t find evidence that large scale poultry breeders are doing this yet. But this would certainly make a huge difference to the industry, both from a humane and ethical perspective, and a financial one.
What Does Rooster Meat Taste Like?
Most people say that unless you’re told you are eating rooster, or you’re some kind of chicken aficionado, you probably won’t even be aware you are eating rooster meat.
It does taste different if you eat some side-by-side with hen meat though.
Roosters do not have as much meat under the skin. It’s tougher than female meat, and it’s often described as being more “stringy”. It has a “fuller” flavor and it is much darker in color too.
But part of this might also come down to how the chicken lived. If you buy rooster meat, it’s more specialist and is more likely to come from a bird that was living on good quality nutrition.
I’m not saying there is anything wrong with broiler chicken meat. But if you tasted the meat from a free-range chicken fed on pasture instead of commercial feed, and it led an active life, that meat is going to taste different.
I won’t say “better”, as that can be quite subjective.
Hopefully, you’ll get the chance to try it for yourself.
In Summary - Do We Eat Male Chickens?
Almost all of the chicken we see on supermarket shelves is female chicken meat. Although, male chicken meat is perfectly fine to eat, and some people even say it has a fuller flavor.
This is mostly due to the fact that it’s easier and more cost-efficient for poultry farmers to raise and butcher female chickens for their meat.