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Attack of the giant chicken breast

I could probably google this and find the answer but thought I'd go to the experts first... My mother was telling me about some GIGANTIC chicken breasts she bought that were so BIG she couldn't get over it. I also buy GIGANTIC chicken breasts but never questioned the size. In both cases the packages are unlabeled, as in not Lillydale or Maple Lodge, etc. Soooo, do GIGANTIC chicken breasts suggest that these monster chickens may have been been provided with growth hormones, something unnatural or are they just big old well-endowed birds???

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  1. The larger breasts come off of birds that are weighing between 3-5 lbs, also known as roasters. The smaller breasts come off of birds weighing 2-3 lbs, known as fryers. It's just the size of the bird, which COULD be as a result of hormones, but more likely breed and dependent on the farmer and feed. Battery fed chickens can result in larger birds, as opposed to free range or "organic" chickens.

    Remember, McDonald's bred their own chicken breed called the "Mr. McDonald" which has larger breasts for their own use.

    2 Replies
      1. re: tasoid

        No growth hormones allowed in the US, either. It's all in the breeding.

    1. One of my sons christened these "Dolly Parton Chickens".

      1 Reply
      1. re: Sherri

        I call 'em "Chernobyl Chickens."

      2. Here in the states we have a name for such chickens - Turkey.

        1. The capon I roasted at Christmas was nearly all breast meat. And very delicious.

          1. Yea I too have noticed the gargantuan breasts which are sometimes up to 1.25 lbs. You might want to check out this thread http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/827380

            1 Reply
            1. Hormones are illegal for use in chicken feed in the US, have been for years.

              I think sometimes there is a glitch in the farm to processing plant--too many chickens, so some have to wait, and in the waiting, get bigger than average.

              Modern chickens reach eating age at 8 weeks--if they have to hold them for another week because the plant has more chickens than it can handle, the birds can add a lot of weight.

              1. We were recently in Spain where the local supermarket had gigantic chicken breasts, easily twice the size of what we see at home. One easily fed the two of us even though there was quite a bit of shrinkage (which made me think they might have been water injected to bulk them up).

                1. They're what I've called "Frankenchicken breasts" for many years. WAY bigger than what they used to be when I was growing up. In the last year, I bought a package of 4 b/s breasts that weighed just over 4 lbs. EACH Frankenchicken breast weighed 1 lb.!

                  I believe it's just breeding, not hormones. Americans seem to prefer the b/s chicken breasts vs. dark meat, so they're breeding the chickens to be bigger and meatier in the breast.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    Yea, at my local store I often encounter 1.25 lb breasts. It really is quite amazing but they are the best when I need to make stuffed chicken as I am a notorious overstuffer and they can be cut in half and pounded to give a nice surface area for folding.

                  2. Quite possibly these are from layer chickens: old chickens whose egg laying days are behind them. They can live and produce up to 560 days. I don't want to gross anybody out, but these do not grace my dinner plate for a variety of reasons.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: pitterpatter

                      560 days would be what commercial egg producers might keep their chickens for. However, egg layers can live much longer than that and lay eggs for many years as well. They're just not as productive as their younger days were. Also, the breasts on those layers will be teeny tiny and as tough as shoe leather. Their energy goes into producing eggs, not meat.

                    2. Am I a complete snob because I only cook organic chicken at home? I hadn't considered that size as an issue, but I have to say I've never encountered truly huge organic chicken breasts. Could just be coincidental though.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Heatherb

                        Not a snob I don't think. The only reason I don't use organic chicken is because I can't afford to :)

                        I've been getting the large ones though. I'm starting to cut them in half lengthwise to make them into better size portions. They cook more evenly that way too.

                        I also got some frankenchicken thighs as well. 1 thigh was 8oz!

                      2. Random/dumb question: I have recently been buying the air-chilled chicken breast at Whole Foods mostly out of convenience since I'm in the area a lot and just run there to grab other items. In the smaller packages, the shape of the breast is what I am used to but in the larger family packs the piece is much larger with a large portion of meat on one side with an attached tender, middle portion of connective tissue and another large portion of meat on the other side. I assume that this is the entire breast portion (i.e. both breasts) from a single bird cut off in one piece? I just have never really bought chicken breast that in that conformation so wasn't sure