Chicken is one of Australia's most popular meats, but do you know what you're buying? Caitlin Reid gives the lowdown.
Why eat chicken?
Lean chicken meat is an excellent source of protein and is low in saturated fat. It's also a source of minerals and essential vitamins. HFG recommends eating chicken 2-3 times a week.
Do meat and eggs come from the same chickens?
The meat and egg industries are separate. The eggs laid by meat chickens (or broilers), are used to produce more chickens for meat. The egg industry uses different varieties of chicken that have been bred for their great egg production. All poultry meat in Australia is grown locally and to protect local birds from diseases, raw chicken meat and live birds cannot be imported.
Do hormones make chickens unhealthy?
Hormones haven't been used for more than 40 years. Meat chickens are up to four times larger than egg chickens because of expert breeding, says the Australian Chicken Meat Federation (ACMF), not hormones.
Do they carry bird flu?
Bird flu (avian influenza) has received a lot of media as it led to disease and even death in humans who came into contact with infected birds in Asia and Europe. Poultry in Australia is free from avian influenza. According to the ACMF, "Most human cases result from being exposed to infected birds, not eating the meat." So avoid bird markets if travelling in Asia.
When is chicken cooked?
Chicken should always be thoroughly cooked. Check if it's cooked by sticking a knife into the thickest part of the meat; if a clear juice comes out, it's done. You should not be able to see any pink meat. Chicken should be cooked to at least 70°C and it normally takes about an hour per kilo depending on the cut.
Which chicken do you prefer to buy?
Conventional: Raised in barns where they roam freely. They're harvested at 35-55 days.
Free-range: From 3 weeks, free-range chickens have access to outdoor space. They're not treated with antibiotics and are fed like conventional chickens. They're harvested at 35-55 days.
Organic: Fed organic feed, with no synthetic fertiliser, herbicide or pesticide used in their production. At 10 days, they have access to outdoor space greater than free-range chickens. Organic chickens aren't treated with antibiotics. They grow more slowly and are harvested at 65-80 days.
Corn-fed: Are raised conventionally with a corn-supplemented feed. They are harvested at 35-55 days.