top of page

Green Chicken Meat for Dinner Anyone? Mmm.

Let's get to the bottom of this Green Chicken Situation without fear-mongering or sweeping the real issue under the rug.

free range brown hens eating bugs

Do you ever see and hear fear-mongering? About food? About certain farming practices? One way is good, the other is bad. No spectrum in between?

I do.


I also see the glossing over of warning signs. 


I don't want either. 


What I do want is real information. And in the absence of that, I want to remain curious and concerned. I hope you do too.

Logo for the One Bite is Everything podcast

The world is always so complicated. It is helpful to break it down one little bite at a time. That's what I am trying to do on the One Bite is Everything podcast. It's a work in progress, but I have been interviewing some really interesting people lately. Experts, historians, folks with a bigger view of how all the pieces fit together. I am excited to bring you that big thinking.


Sometimes I get nervous when I bring you a smaller story, that it's not enough. But then I remember that our lives, our communities are knit together by these small stories. They are real and relatable. And I am reminded by conversations that I have in real life, that these small stories feel authentic and are, and that's what we crave. So… no more muttering apologies when I share those little bits. 


Here's one little bit that I heard this past week. It is a situation perfect for that fear-mongering and sweeping things under the rug phenomenon that I was talking about. We will do neither here, but remain curious about how we got here (cue historians) and what we can do (small actions).


the front of a costco store where shoppers found green rotisserie chicken

Reddit has a Costco chat that extolls the virtues of sales and bargains and hot items at the big box retailer. People (over 600,000 of them) are really passionate about it. In a recent thread about Costco's heralded rotisserie chicken, shoppers reported (with some alarm) that some of the meat was GREEN. What? Ick. 

On a deep dive into this green chicken fiasco, I found the comments on this Reddit thread to be super fascinating and revealing. People want affordable food, but also food that is well-raised and healthy.


This whole story is outlined in an article in Food & Wine (So your Costco Rotisserie Chicken Is Green Inside. Now what?) And when I say outlined, what I mean is soft-pedaled. The words they use following the title are “There's no need to panic.” Oh, good.


So, no need to panic as in “You won't die if you eat it.” Whew. But why is it green? It's called green muscle disease (apt title) that happens when a bird's pectoral muscles get too big for blood supply to reach them (and that part of the muscle dies). 


In the industrialized poultry business where we often buy thighs, legs, and breasts already dissected from the whole, those parts that may be green are discarded (because the rest of the meat is still good). But in a whole bird, it's harder to hide. Thus the scare.


I am not fear-mongering here. I don't think anyone wants to eat green chicken eat (even Dr. Seuss fans). But do we want meat that could become green? That, to me, is the first question.


The second question is how did we get here? And, of course, how do we get out of this mess?

White cornish cross chicken with a red comb

Most of the chicken we eat in this country – conventional or organic and even many of the birds at smaller farms – are of one breed. The Cornish Cross. According to Britannica, the Cornish Cross, a hybrid of Cornish and White Rock, is one of the most common breeds for industrial meat production because of its rapid, efficient growth.


One modern homesteader did a well-researched pros and cons list on raising the Cornish Cross. One of the pros is this: “They’ve been selectively bred to grow at a much faster rate than any other breed out there. Depending on what you are raising them for, they can reach a market weight of 3-5 pounds in 7-9 weeks.” They also have a high feed-to-meat conversion rate. One of the key cons is this: “Their growth rate can be too fast.” and “Their legs and organs can't keep up.”


These are facts, not fear. But they should make you curious about your food, how it's raised, and what kind of choices you have. Just because the green chicken meat is not unsafe doesn't mean there's not a problem. It is a wake-up call for those Reddit followers and Costco too. (Honestly, I think the Reddit followers could have written -- and sorta did -- a better, more honest piece than Food & Wine did.)


Just so you know, my go-to small, local chicken farm which includes “heritage breed” on the label, raises Cornish Cross birds. News to me. 🤔 (It's never green or more than 3 or 4 pounds, so there's that.) If you raise these birds with care, not letting them overeat, and slowing down the process with pasture time, you can raise a healthy bird with un-green meat. And better than that very low bar for sure.


Here is an article I found really interesting about chickens and breeding. Imagine you wanted to take matters into your own hands and breed a flock of quality chickens. I am pretty sure you don't, but it's a great way to see how we got here and how it's more complicated than you ever imagined. (Remember that 8th grade science module on genetics?)


I still think that talking to your local farmer about what they raise, how they breed them, and how they keep them healthy for you is a good idea. Head to your farmer's market (here's a guide to help you get the most from your market) and see what you find out.


Yours in staying curious (and concerned) about our options, 



Dana DiPrima is the founder of the For Farmers Movement. For Farmers supports American farmers by sharing their stories, replacing myths with facts, and providing them with mini-grants and other helpful resources. Dana is the host of the One Bite is Everything podcast that helps to connect issues from modern life with solutions backed by good info from experts you can trust. She authors a weekly letter in addition to this blog. You can subscribe here. And you can join the For Farmers Movement to support your farmers here. You can also follow her on Instagram and Threads.


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page