How to Save Money Eating Organic Chicken / by Alice Zhao

how to break down a chicken
At the Zhao household, we've been working little by little to eat healthier and more sustainably. Mostly, we've been choosing to eat a lot more vegetables and a lot less meat. By no means does this imply that we will be going the vegetarian route, let alone vegan, simply because we love ourselves a juicy juicy steak every now and then. But while I'd like to eat an all organic diet, it just is not a cheap option. We're making small changes, and we'd like to share one of our most recent efforts.
Right now, we buy all of our produce at our local Mexican supermarket where produce is ridiculously cheap and fresh (though not organic), and usually we just pick up all the greens that are on sale and in season. Each week, we pack our grocery cart with a large variety of greens, other vegetables, fruit and dairy (we shop around the perimeter!)- with our bill typically coming out to be around $20 for a week's worth of vegetable. While the price for meat is also extremely cheap at this supermarket, we have come to notice the drastic difference in quality of meats between here and Whole Foods. Simply put, it tastes better and hey it's hormone free, woohoo! At the very least, I've convinced myself that since we've saved so much money on produce at our local supermarket, we can afford to buy some (though not all) of our meats at Whole Foods-mainly chicken and seafood.

I have to say the price difference between organic meat and non-organic meat is pretty drastic. Jaw dropping, to say the least. When I know I can buy a whole chicken for $0.79-0.99/lb at our supermarket, Whole Foods is typically double if not triple in price. During our last visit to Whole Foods, we jotted down the following full retail prices per pound for organic chicken cuts.

Organic Chicken Prices at Whole Foods (full retail price)
$1.99/lb Air Chilled Organic Fryer Whole Chicken
$4.99/lb Bone-in Chicken Breast w/ Skin
$6.99/lb Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
$4.99/lb Boneless Skinless Thigh
$2.49/lb Chicken Drumstick
$3.29/lb Chicken Wings

I mean, $6.99/lb for organic chicken breast? Yikes!!!!!

So in an effort to save a little bit of money and still eat organic chicken, Jared has resolved to only buy whole chicken and break it down himself. He claims he likes dong it, so who am I to argue? :) A few weeks ago, we also listened to a panel at the Family Farmed Expo where industry professionals came and spoke about cooking the whole animal, nose to tail. Granted we are not eating the chicken head or the chicken feet, but hey we're making an effort here!

Here at Eat A Duck I Must! Jared demonstrates how to break down a chicken and further down I've provided a breakdown of our expenses and savings by doing so.

how to break down a chicken

um, Jared just wanted to show off his custom Suisin knife (gin momizi)

The Four Piece and Eight Piece Cut

how to break down a chicken

  • With the chicken on its back, cut along the contour of the thigh. Flip the chicken over and continue to cut along the contour
  • Flip the chicken back on its back and bend the thigh to reveal the joint
  • Locate the joint connecting the thigh to the body with your fingers. Using a sharp knife or a kitchen shear, cut right at the joint.
  • Repeat the same process with the other side

how to break down a chicken

  • With the chicken still on its back, locate the sternum
  • Cut on either side of the sternum
  • Cut into the breast following the contour of the rib cage until you reach the back of the chicken (you might have to cut through the wishbone)
  • Bend the breast meat from the cavity to reveal the joint connecting the wing to the body
  • Cut the joint to separate the breast from the body cavity
  • Repeat on the other side
At this point you will have completed the four piece cut giving you pieces of white and 2 pieces of dark meat. The following are the rest of the instructions to continue with the eight piece cut.
  • To separate the wing, cut along the contour of the wing and repeat with the other breast

how to break down a chicken

  • To remove the leg from the thigh, cut along the contour of the leg
  • Bend the leg to reveal the joint
  • Cut the joint to separate the leg from the thigh

how to break down a chicken

  • Finally, using a paper towel or bare hands, get a grip of the chicken skin and pull it away from the breast
  • Repeat the same with the other breast and the thighs
  • Trim away any fatty tissues

how to break down a chicken

  • Save the bones for stock (and secretly stow away the chicken skin for frying!)
Here's what the different cuts should look like

how to break down a chicken

After Jared broke down the chicken, I broke down the savings! The whole chicken weighed in at 3.673lbs and at $1.99/lb, it cost us $7.31.
how to break down a chicken
We weighed each types of meat that Jared broke them down into and calculated what it would have cost to buy these pieces individually.

13.375oz (0.836 lbs) Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast at $6.99/lb would have cost us $5.84

10 oz (0.625lbs) Boness Skinless Thigh + Drumstick meat (average price of dark meat $3.74/lb, conservatively) would have cost us $2.34
6 3/8 oz (0.398lbs) Chicken Wings at $3.29/lb would have cost us $1.31
In total, we would have spent $9.49 for 29.75oz(1.859lb) of strictly chicken meat, which means we technically saved $2.18. That doesn't sound like a whole lot, but it'll add up and hey we're doing our part to eat nose to tail! errr... shoulder to leg? hehe. What we did get was 29.75oz (1.859lb of meat) + 29.25oz (1.813lbs) bones for stock of carcass bones for chicken stock.

how to break down a chicken
Each chicken gives our little 2 person household about about 3 meals. (2 dinners and lunch leftovers). The first time Jared broke down the chicken, the dark meat was used for chicken tikka masala, while the white meat for grilled pesto chicken. The second time around, we had simple grilled chicken breast over a big hearty salad and the ground dark meat was used to make chicken soboro donbori.

By now, we've got about 3 chickens worth of bones which means we're just about ready to make some homemade chicken stock! or I guess we could make some mechanically separated chicken. Who wants some boot shaped chicken nuggets!!

If you've never done it before, try it at least once. Though that's easy for me to say, Jared does all the work around here =P There are also some great videos out there about breaking down the chicken as well. But nothing beats this one of Hung from Top Chef destroying the mise en place relay race.