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I'm debating whether to start buying whole gizzard-less and organ-less chickens and breaking them down myself into parts. I would only do this if it was more cost effective than buying the parts themselves. What would the proportions of the parts be to the whole on average? This is so I can do the math to see if this would be cost effective.

I'd be looking for something like:

breast: x%, y lbs
wing: x%, y lbs
thigh: x%, y lbs
drumstick: x%, y lbs
bone: x%, y lbs
total: 100%, y lbs

where variables are replaced with actual values.

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    Simple: just gather the prices of the parts per kg in your supermarket and sum them up, 2 pieces per bird, then compare with the price of a whole chicken.
    – Luciano
    Apr 20, 2022 at 12:57

2 Answers 2

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I do not think this can be answered in a satisfactory way because there's way too much variation in chickens - breed, age when slaughtered, living conditions, feed, etc. all would affect the proportions, with rather large margins.

That being said, the folks over at seriouseats have an article claiming it's economically viable to buy whole chickens (with guts, even!) and trim and portion them yourself. One thing that definitely makes sense to me is to use a trimmed carcass for really good chicken stock, which can be easily frozen. That alone makes it worth to me to buy a whole chicken: trim the bird, use cuts for whatever, then use carcass for chicken stock. Almost 100% usage, lower cost per weight.

But, on the other hand, if you wanted to make, say, chicken wings for 5-6 people, you wouldn't buy several whole chickens just for their wings. Unless you can effectively store and use frozen temporarily unneeded parts of your whole chickens, I think it makes sense to only occasionally buy whole chickens. That is a) if you cook a lot of chicken and can use up the different cuts shortly after the other or b) if you want and can manage larger masses of frozen chicken that you then use as you need them.

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  • a. Thank you for answering, b. Would specifying my source of the chickens help nail it down? c. If it is economical, I'd be buying a box of 10 at a time, breaking them down, packaging and freezing them. Apr 20, 2022 at 13:10
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Here's some numbers from a random document I found on the USDA website. It appears to be used as a contract specification for processors who are hired to process whole chickens on behalf of the USDA, though I will admit I can't fully decipher the preamble.

All of the weights in the document refer to a "purchase unit", which I believe is 36,000 pounds. The yields of bone-in parts for a "standard 8-piece cut", and for boneless meat yield from whole chickens, are as follows:

Parts Bone-in parts fraction Boneless meat fraction
Breast 41% >25%
Thighs 26% >13%
Drumsticks 16% >9%
Wings 13% <8%

However, note that other USDA documents refer to an 8-piece cut in which back portions are left attached to the breasts and thighs. This is probably why the numbers for the bone-in parts add up to something close to 100%; I would expect that the weight of the back would be much more than the 4% that is missing from the above numbers. This makes a comparison to supermarket chicken parts (which do not typically have back portions attached) a bit trickier.

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  • That's really helpful bc there's guides for dog feeding that breaks down the bone percentages for different parts. I can use that for my smaller scale work. Thank you Apr 20, 2022 at 15:39

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