America’s taste in chicken meat has changed, providing a much-needed lifeline for the poultry industry.
For decades consumers strongly preferred white meat, shaping how chicken producers bred generations of birds, The Wall Street Journal reports.
In recent years, however, foodies have been turning to leg and thigh meat, spurred by a wave of TV cooking shows that touted the taste of dark meat. The shift can be seen at popular restaurant chains like Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG), which prepares mostly dark chicken meat dishes.
Adding to the turn toward the dark side are waves of immigrants from countries where chicken on the bone is favored. Rising U.S. chicken exports overseas are also pushing the trend.
As demand for dark meat has increased, so have prices. This has proven a boon for an industry plagued by losses over the last decade. Shaking off a sharp downturn in chicken prices last year, the industry is seeing record prices this spring, the Journal said.
The change in tastes has left retailers like Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFM) facing shortages of chicken thighs.
Responding to consumers who prefer their chicken meat to come without bones, U.S. producers have developed various methods to efficiently strip and package meat, leaving bones, tendons and veins behind.
Previous price differences between boneless, skinless cuts of white and dark meat have disappeared. Prices for both cuts now hover around $1.30 a pound. Meanwhile, the price for chicken legs has doubled, reaching about 75 cents a pound.
The largest U.S. producer of chicken, Tyson Foods (NYSE:TSN), says sales of dark meat to grocery chains are increasing and it’s working to create more dark meat products.