The color of poultry

The color of raw chicken and turkey does not usually change as much as beef and other ‘red meats.’ Raw poultry can vary from a bluish-white to yellow. All of these colors are normal and are a direct result of breed, exercise, age, and/or diet. Younger poultry has less fat under the skin, which can cause the bluish cast, and the yellow skin could be a result of marigold petals (flower petals!)  in the feed. Dark meat tissue contains more myoglobin than white-meat tissue. Myoblobin provides muscles with the oxygen they need during exercise or movement. Because domestic chickens and turkeys are flightless birds, they use their legs and thighs to get around and these muscles are where you find higher myoglobin concentrations and hence ‘dark meat.’

What is the color of safely cooked poultry? Safely cooked poultry can vary in color from white to pink to tan. For safety when cooking poultry, use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature. For a whole chicken or turkey, check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. All the meat—including any that remains pink—is safe to eat as soon as all parts reach at least 165°F as measured with a food thermometer.

What causes dark bones in cooked poultry? Darkening of bones and meat around the bones occurs primarily in young (6-8 weeks) broiler-fryer chickens. Since the bones have not calcified or hardened completely, pigment from the marrow seeps through the bones and into the surrounding area and ‘colors’ the tissue. Freezing can also contribute to this darkening. The meat is safe to eat as long as it’s cooked a minimum internal temperature of 165°F.

Why is some grilled poultry pink? The tissue of poultry that is grilled or cooked in a gas oven may have a pink tinge even when it’s fully cooked (165°F). Chemical reactions can occur during cooking which cause this coloration to develop; the meat is safe as long as it’s cooked to the proper temperature. Commercially prepared, smoked poultry is usually pink because the process and the formulation (ingredients) are designed to achieve the pink color. ‘Cured’ poultry meat is also designed to attain a pink color.

Just like with ‘red meat’, poultry that is spoiled tends to develop an off-odor, to be sticky or tacky to the touch, or it may be slimy. If poultry has developed these spoilage characteristics, it should not be used. Stay food-safe, Barb