Dark Meat Sizzles Ahead of Grilling Season

US - Grilling season “officially” kicks off on Memorial Day Weekend (May is National Barbecue Month), and if recent supermarket point-of-sale data is any indication, grill masters will be turning to the Dark Side... of the chicken.
calendar icon 22 May 2012
clock icon 3 minute read

During the 13 weeks ending 31 March 2012, chicken thighs saw six per cent volume growth at supermarkets (11 per cent dollar growth) despite a five per cent increase in average retail price; chicken legs/drumsticks experienced only a slight volume decline (dollars increased four per cent) due to a seven per cent increase in average retail price, according to Nielsen Perishables Group FreshFacts® data.

The breast still rules the supermarket roost, however, representing 56 per cent of supermarket chicken category dollars, compared to 17 per cent for chicken legs/drumsticks and thighs. Chicken breasts saw two per cent volume growth and one per cent dollar growth over the same time period, with a three per cent average retail price increase.

According to a new nationwide poll by the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, flavorful food is a key component to the cookout. Consumers said they prefer their food tender (57 per cent) and juicy (56 per cent), which are two key attributes given to dark meat cuts by chefs and home grillers alike.

“The growth in popularity of dark meat cuts can be attributed to four factors, really: an interest in its flavor, its popularity in more globally-inspired dishes, generally a lower price point and its attributes that make it better suited to the direct heat of a grill,” said Tom Super, vice president of communications with the National Chicken Council. “Chicken sausages are also finding their way on to more and more grills, too.”

Sherry Frey, vice president of account services for the Nielsen Perishables Group, noted their data shows many cold-weather categories were lower in the first quarter of 2012. “We believe that’s due to the earlier spring and warmer weather many people experienced around the country this year. More people started their grilling season earlier than in years past, which could be one factor in dark meat’s rise in popularity during the first quarter,” Ms Frey noted.

White meat like boneless skinless chicken breast has long been recognized in this country for its nutritional benefits as an ideal lean protein for a healthy diet. Dark meat lovers received some good news, recently, too. Taurine, a naturally-occurring nutrient found in the dark meat of poultry may provide protection against coronary heart disease (CHD) in women with high cholesterol, according to the findings of a recent study by researchers at New York University School of Medicine.

“Whether one’s preference is a breast, leg or thigh, though, you can always buy a whole chicken and you’ll get the whole package,” Mr Super concluded.

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