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Adding value to chicken leg meat

Adding value to chicken leg meat

Legs and thighs are poultry’s unsung heroes 

Chicken leg products have so much more potential nowadays than one would think. And we’re not just talking about drumsticks. We are also talking about whole legs and thighs either bone-in or deboned. Worldwide, there’s a growing market for these products, as the consumer begins to appreciate the tastiness of leg meat. As the global market leader in poultry processing solutions, Marel Poultry was timely aware of this trend. The company already developed exactly the right solutions for adding maximum value to leg processing and for making leg products highly profitable.

Around the world, there are plenty of markets which have always preferred leg meat, such as East Asia, Mexico, India, Russia, Morocco and even countries such as Greece and Hungary, where traditional dishes are based on chicken leg meat. Just think of Indian Tandoori, Moroccan chicken leg tagine or Hungarian Paprikás Csirke. Let’s take East Asia as an example. Leg meat has long been the chicken meat of choice here. Thigh fillet is more than twice as expensive as breast fillet in Japan. The region’s tasty snacks such as sate from Indonesia and Malaysia and yakitori and karaage from Japan are based on leg meat. In Asia, it's the breasts that end up in bargain buckets.


The Stork Thigh Fillet System is capable of inline deboning  at high speed, upgrading boneless thighs to A-class meat. 


In the mature markets of the USA and Europe, however, breast meat has reigned supreme both for cooking at home and as an ingredient in further processed products. Leg meat, ground up and used either on its own or mixed with trimmings and MDM, is used mainly in nugget, pattie and sausage products. Things are, however, changing even in that bastion of white meat, the USA. Quite recently, a survey of professional chefs in the USA showed that they much preferred to work with leg meat when preparing chicken dishes. In Europe, the gap between the retail price per kilogram for breast and thigh fillet is narrowing and in some markets is now less than 10%. Other markets have just started to discover the potential for chicken leg products to overcome existing preferences for breast fillet. All this proves that leg meat is becoming increasingly popular with consumers. Given the popularity of leg meat in growing markets such as Asia and Africa, it is likely that leg meat products will account for a large share of the projected increase in global chicken consumption.

Because chicken thighs have slightly darker meat (and sometimes skin), they are often seen as being less healthy and less attractive. Scientific evidence, however, proves that there is not much difference between breast and thigh meat as regards nutritional value, protein, carbohydrates, cholesterol, calories, sodium and iron. Just the fat content tends to be slightly higher in chicken thighs than in breast, due to leg meat’s muscle structure. Leg meat is therefore more succulent and dries out less during cooking. It is an open secret that chicken legs have more flavor than the breast. That is convenient, as for most people flavor is most important of all meat characteristics. Drumsticks and whole legs are...

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