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Tough Chicken Meat

When we butchered our chickens this fall, they seemed to be so tough. I have to cook them in a pressure cooker because you can’t eat them otherwise. We did not do anything different in feeding them than we have the last eight years. I can’t even cook them on the grill — it’s too tough. Do you know what would have caused this? We buy new ones each spring. We had white rocks this year. Is there something we can feed them to help this? We give them a lot of greens out of the garden, but we always have.  

Dave Canfield

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I have a couple of ideas. First, were they White Plymouth Rocks, or Cornish-Rock crosses (commercial broilers)? If they were purebred white rocks, they likely took quite a bit of time to fill out and be of a good size for slaughter. As chickens age, the meat will become tougher. That shouldn’t be different from what you are used to from prior years, however, unless you were used to Cornish-rocks in the past.

My other guess has to do with the processing methods. After the bird has been slaughtered, plucked, eviscerated, etc., it really needs to “rest” for at least 12 to 24 hours (refrigerated, but not frozen). This allows the muscles to go through rigor and then relax. If you cook the bird immediately, or freeze it immediately, the muscles will not go through this process, and you can end up with very tough meat.

If you have been allowing the meat to rest, then I’m not sure. That is usually the common issue I’ve seen in the past.

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