The color of chicken: why yellow is synonymous with quality

The color of the bird meat, raw or cooked, has always been an irrefutable sign of its quality and freshness. The majority of diners relate these two qualities to that pink tone that most pieces present; however, it is not the only one. Do you know what it means when the meat is reddish in color? And yellow? Some cuts even sport purple highlights. The feeding of the animal during the rearing, the selected species or the conservation conditions to which it is subjected are just some of the influential factors in its appearance. Do you want to learn to distinguish them?

Poultry farming and pigmentation

Photo: iStock.

Today, raising poultry for human consumption has completely moved away from the traditional methods that our ancestors perfected over the years. One of the advances to which we refer takes place within the scope of nutrition and genetics. “Birds consume less food and do not have access to natural sources of pigmentation; However, due to market competition, chicken producers began to add pigment in poultry feed, in this way, the final consumer associates the health of the birds and the freshness of the product “, they explain from the platform All Meat.

In the past, the color of the skin corresponded to the amount of food that the animal needed for its correct development or the system of semipastoreo in which it was raised. That is, the birds lived freely on a surface of land, which made all kinds of native insects or plants with a high content of pigmenting molecules. Instead, due to the advances discussed above, these conditions are now conspicuous by their absence. So what is the color of the skin due to?

Photo: iStock.

The red pigments and yellow are the most used. In the first case, it depends exclusively on the cantaxantina, a molecule present in the feathers and skin of flamingos or in various species of algae and fungi. Meanwhile he yellow color, the most recurrent, is linked to carotenoids as diverse as the lutein, zeaxanthin or apoester. These are found in various vegetables such as alfalfa, marigold flower or corn kernels.

As you have seen, the skin color of birds not only depends on the type of carotenoid to which the animal is exposed, but also on the type of diet, the genetics, the facilities where they grow, the temperature of the water used to pluck them or their health condition, because “any type of disease that reduces food consumption will cause a lower intake of carotenoids”, they say from The Poultry Site. Under this premise, what does each shade mean in the eyes of the consumer and at the point of sale?

Is this chicken in bad shape?

As reported by the Food Safety expert Marta Chavarrías, “The consumer can reject a food if the color is not the desired one. However, it should be noted that color alone does not mean that the product is in poor condition. You are more likely to be if you have a musty smell And it is viscous touch”. Taking into account these properties and once verified that the meat is in perfect condition, it is important to know that a fresh chicken will also have the yellow legs and full of scales little. While the skin will be smooth, smooth and uniform, without the presence of unwanted spots.

When the chicken or any other bird has a more yellowish hue, it means that the animal has followed a diet 100% vegetable, based on wheat, barley and corn, mainly responsible for said pigmentation. Contrary to popular belief, yellow chickens are of excellent quality and a highly recommended source of vitamins and protein.

Currently, birds consume less food and do not have access to natural sources of pigmentation

Another aspect to consider is the age of the animal: “The meat of older animals is darker because the level of myoglobin increases with the years. In addition, the muscles that are exercised the most are also darker, which means that the same animal can have color variations in its muscles ”, Chavarrías emphasizes on his blog.

The freezing or the cooking process to which the meat is subjected before its consumption has a significant influence on the change of color, since chemical processes of great importance for the food take place. Of course, none of them affect the integrity or safety of the product. However, despite these guidelines, there are times when the coloration is directly related to the state of the meat or the loss of freshness. For example, “if you have violet or greenish reflections in the meat, or the darkened end of the wings, as well as the greenish discolored neck, it is synonymous with the fact that the meat is not very fresh ”, he adds.

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