For too long, chicken thighs were the ignored child of the chicken meat family, relegated to bulk packs at ridiculously low prices. For people that knew what to do with the less-desired but more flavorful dark meat, it meant tasty meals that didn’t break the bank. But the secret is now out, and consumers are starting to pay top dollar for the one-time bargain poultry parts.
With celebrity chefs extolling the virtues of thighs and drumsticks on TV, grocery buyers have started gobbling up dark meat. Additionally, reports the AP, new equipment has automated the deboning process for the tricky cuts, meaning boneless dark meat is now more readily available to consumers.
Alas, all the increased demand for dark meat — along with stagnant demand for chicken breasts — has meant there is virtually no price difference between the two:
Dark meat historically has been cheaper than white, but according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, wholesale boneless, skinless thighs now cost as much as breasts, and sometimes more. Both averaged $1.33 a pound in March, but thigh prices were up 15 percent from a year earlier, while breasts were up only 1 percent. Bone-in leg quarters averaged 53 cents per pound in March, up 26 percent from a year ago.
In fact, some shoppers tell the AP that they have seen dark meat being sold for more than its paler counterpart.
Dark meat may no longer — or at least for the time being — be the bottom-dollar option it used to be, but meat maestro Pat LaFrieda of the Food Network’s Meat Men, has some advice for those who want a clue about other meats that may not yet be getting their due.
“If you’re looking for what the next trend is,” he tells the AP, “always ask the butcher what he takes home.”