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Chicken: Main Image

Buying Tips

Check the “Sell By” date on the package. This date indicates the last day the chicken should be offered for sale. Meat and poultry should be prepared as soon as possible after the date of purchase, and used beyond the Sell By date only occasionally, if at all. Fresh chicken should have no detectable odor; the flesh should feel firm, and the surface should not feel slick.


Chickens can be purchased whole, with weights that range from 3 to 10 pounds (1,350 to 4,540g); cut in parts such as breasts, thighs, legs, and wings; and even as ground meat. Some chicken parts are available boneless and skinless. Chicken is usually sold fresh, but in some supermarkets it has been frozen and thawed.

Cornish game hens (also called Rock Cornish hens) are tender, young hens that are specially bred to be smaller-boned and meatier; they have a more delicate flavor. Broiler-fryers are young (about 45 days old), tender birds. Roasters are older, about 10 weeks old. Capons are large (8 to 10 pounds or 3,600 to 4,500g) castrated male chickens that have been kept confined so their meat is tender. Fowl or stewing hens are older, laying hens, and give excellent flavor to soup or broth.

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The information presented in the Food Guide is for informational purposes only and was created by a team of US–registered dietitians and food experts. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements, making dietary changes, or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2024.