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Dark Meat (Thigh/Leg) Vs White Meat (Breast) in Chicken

Why would the breast meat (white meat) have less fat than the thigh/leg meat (dark meat)?

If you look for parallels in the female anatomy, there is more fat in the breast than the thigh/leg.

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  1. It depends on how I'm eatting...

    In stews I like dark meats. Chicken Chili with thighs, we had an awesome chicken Sagg the other day with thighs too...

    In curries and mole I like white. I like how white really doesn't add any flavor so you get the full impact of the curry or Mole.

    Grilling, I like white. Again, it's the transfer of flavors that goes on when I season a chicken breast steak and then SEAR it in with the grill...

    for fried, I LOVE drum sticks... there is no better thing on a picnick than a bucket of freshy fried drum sticks...

    Basically, give me a whole chicken, I'll find a use for all it's wonderful parts.. ;)


    1. Uhhh, birds don't breast feed, dude. Your analogy falls flat. Reminds me of the PETA activists that compare a duck's gullet to a human's throat. Anyway, in answer to your question:


      By weight of meat, dark meat has more fat.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Morton the Mousse

        Or some people I heard plugging some kind of vegan diet, who said that people can get all their calcium from leafy greens, after all, cows do. Yeah, they do, and it takes four stomachs and a huge volume to extract enough nutrients from grass.

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Not to mention all the cud chewing. Mmmm...

      2. I hope your not comparing the female anatomy of a chicken to that of a female human.

        White chicken meat (breast), the leanest part of the chicken has less saturated fat than Dark chicken meat (drumsticks, thighs, wings, back and ribcage) which is richer in riboflavin, poorer in niacin and has more fat and connective tissues than white meat (breasts).

        1. Avians vs mammals...get the difference? Guess why we are called "mammals" and birds are not. Note also that chickens don't fly, thus their breast meat is leaner than that on birds that do fly.

          1 Reply
          1. re: PeterL

            What I think the OP was asking is WHY is breast meat lower in fat. Chickens don't fly, so breast muscles are not working as hard as leg muscles. It would make sense for breast meat to have less myoglobin, be more tender, etc.

            But why less fat? You would think fat builds up around less used muscle groups. Or is it that fat is stored closer to muscles that will need the energy?

          2. There was an interesting discussion on the today show on this.
            (i was very suprised at some of the things to know about fish discussion! check it out)

            therefore, to add on to your point:

            "There's the age old debate: White or dark meat?" Phil Lempert

            "The truth is that white meat contains less calories and fat, and therefore dark meat is a bit tastier. However, the meatiest parts of the bird are the “flight muscles” or breast meat. The walking muscles, on the first and second segments of the legs, are the thigh and drumstick.

            Since most poultry birds don’t have sustained use of their flight muscles these days, this part of the bird has less oxygen-carrying myoglobin than the walking muscles — and that’s what gives the meat a lighter color. Waterfowl, like geese and ducks who do use their flight muscles, have darker breast meat. "

            1. Human breasts are made of fatty tissue. Chicken "breast" are another way of saying "pecs." They're made of muscle tissue.

              3 Replies
              1. re: fara

                Right, I was getting ready to say this. They don't correspond, a chicken breast is a muscle, not a mammary gland.

                1. re: fara

                  I have a friend whose uncle's issues required him to call them "chicken chests".

                  1. re: ricepad

                    No way!! My husband got in big trouble for saying butt as a child, I thought that was bad. I like chicken boobs myself.

                2. Such a philosophic inquiry. Faced with the acknowledgement that one part of a body is less fatty than another, it never really occurred to me to inquire why.

                  Is there any particular reason, other than love of knowledge, that you inquired?

                  1. Another thing to consider is that in the US, chickens have been selectively bred and raised to plump-up and lean-down the breast meat, while thighs are much less favored-- I read somewhere a few years ago that the US exports tens of thousands of tons of chicken thighs every year-- I suppose they are the forlorn leftover parts from all the breasts sold separately...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: newhound

                      Well, they could send me a ton or two...!

                      Seriously, both Mrs. O and I are appalled at the increasing number of restaurants that offer no chicken but breast meat. When one of our favorite home-style restaurants in Nashville underwent a makeover, we came in as soon as they'd reopened, hungry for their fried chicken, and were aghast to find that hindquarters were no longer on the menu. We had something else for lunch and never went back.

                    2. I find it hard to believe the moderators have let this go so long and to such a tangent, but what the heck.

                      I find the dark meat, whether fattier or not, just the best way to enjoy a roasted, BBQ'd, braised or fried chicken. The breast holds the allure of pounding and using as a base for other great preparations, piccata, parm, with salsa, all kinds of toppings. None of these would work with the thighs.

                      1. I've become a convert to brining when it comes to the white meat-- still retains the milder flavor than dark (which I generally prefer, but for some recipes like mole I find the milder white doesn't "fight" with the sauce flavorings...)