Yellow skin in raw chicken is seen is some parts of Mexico and I was wondering if that color is obtained using dyes. I've done lots of research both online and asking people who have knowledge about raising chickens but have received a lot of conflicting information.

To be clear, this is the kind of yellow I'm referring to: Super yellow chicken being sold in a Mexican market

So far, I have found the following things, which some contradict each other:

  • The yellow skin is caused by eating marigolds.

  • The yellow skin is caused by dipping the chicken in hot water and removing quickly.

  • The skin is dyed yellow due to cultural reasons.

  • The skin is dyed yellow to help with gutting the chicken.

  • The skin is dyed yellow to give it a more tasty look.

  • The yellow skin is caused by eating grass.

  • The yellow skin is caused by eating special bird feed to puff up the chicken.

  • The yellow skin is caused by eating carotenoids.

Does anyone have more information about what really is causing this intense yellow? I'd appreciate a paper, research or official information so I can use this to stop the spread of misinformation among my local community.

  • 15
    If you replace each "is" in those statements with "can be" then they don't contradict each other any more. Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 3:29
  • 1
    The answers here make this a duplicate, however the question is asked differently: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/35776/…
    – moscafj
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 10:56
  • 3
    I work in a chicken processing facility, and we can give the birds some yellow color by setting the scalder temps to specific range, but definitely not as yellow as those. Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 17:54
  • For what it's worth, the first sentence in the accepted answer is wrong. Commented Jun 10, 2020 at 14:31

4 Answers 4


In the EU to call a chicken "corn chicken" you need to tick some boxes while growing it:

  • fodder must be AT LEAST 50% corn.
  • fodder cannot contain anything GMO-ed.
  • chicken must be free ranged with access to daylight for X amount of time
  • you cannot use antibiotics

And European corn chicken have a yellowish tint to it, not so bright like in your photo. Here you can see a photo of typical one https://edlesfleisch.de/produkt/kikok-maishaehnchen/ Notice that the end of wings and middle of breast are pink. Those places should be like that, the color should not be uniform.

From all the things you listed everything is (and can be) true. They don't need to occur at once (because there is no reason for that) but one of them is enough (apart maybe from that grass thing that's BS, grass would be around 20-30% of range free chicken diet, assuming they have enough grass to feed all the chickens and they don't stampede it).

But, again, the amount of yellow is crucial. Scalding chicken with boiling water will give very, very light yellow tint to the skin. But again, only if the chicken is raised properly before.

So I wouldn't say those things on your list are misinformation. I would say you would need to know how to check your chicken. For example, look at the feet against the women apron. One of them is very not yellow. That should give you a clue that those are not natural pigment in the skin.
Corn feed chicken is also usually smaller than regular chickens so just by comparing the size can clue you if the color is due to fodder (and that also contradict that it's caused by bird feed to make them puffier)

To answer question in the title: Yellow color is a clue of dye only if occurs with other things. Color by itself is not an indication.

  • 4
    Maize feed chicken is in France called maispoularde → I (native French speaker) have never heard the word "maispoularde" in French. I cannot find it anywhere in dictionnaires either. It suspiciously sounds like a concatenation of the words "maïs" (corn) and "poularde" (a specific kind of hen)
    – WoJ
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 11:43
  • @WoJ You might be right, it looks like how germans think french would call it. Even google is showing me german sites using "maispoularde". Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 12:05
  • 8
    "in Germany Kikok" - False, that's a brand name and I never heard it before. The correct term would be "Maishuhn" or "Maishähnchen".
    – Josef
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 12:27
  • 4
    As a French guy living in Germany, I had to laugh real hard at your first sentence. I have no idea where you found those words. Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 22:33

The skin is yellow probably because the chicken was fed with maize. Age and race of the chicken are a factor, too.

In Germany (and propably Europe) you can explicitly buy „Maishähnchen“ that is fed purely with maize.

If you compare this with the standard grain (wheat) fed chicken you can see the distinctive difference in Color

  • 2
    I edited to change "corn" to "grain", as that's the more universal English translation for "Korn" - "corn" is another word for maize, in the US, so it would be confusing otherwise. (See this answer for some fun historical context!)
    – Joe M
    Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 15:06
  • I confirm that the bread has an influence on the color of the skin, the maize, and the amount of fat also. Some unhealthy chicken can have yellow skin because of the fat, and some perfectly healthy chickens because of the bread or the food they ate. French chickens are also fed with pure maize (when they are destined to be eaten). I think it exists in every European country and worldwide.
    – Quidam
    Commented Jun 10, 2020 at 4:41
  • And it's not impossible that some firms taint the skin of the chicken. In many countries, they hey taint the yellow of the egg to make it more orange, by feeding the chicken with caroten, to make people think the chicken was free range and "natural".
    – Quidam
    Commented Jun 10, 2020 at 4:45
  • Maize is the name for Indian Corn. The general term corn can be attributed to basically any wheat or cereal. Indian Corn is native to the Americas
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Jun 2, 2022 at 19:16

I was just in a butcher shop/carnicería in Puerto Vallarta with a Mexican guide who was telling us the chicken in Mexico is dyed yellow. She said even having lived in the US and Canada for years, she would never buy undyed chicken at home because it just looks gross. We asked why they do this and neither she nor the elderly man who owned the butcher shop knew how it started or why they do it. Which is very weird in itself.


As far as I know it would be illegal to literally dye the chicken but I am not an expert on Mexican food safety laws. However I can say that in the eu’s spanish market special feeds are formulated to cause the chicken meat to have a more yellow appearance. Supposedly they think yellow chicken tastes better.

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