Chicken Guts: is there a snack in my future?
July 4, 2010 5:39 AM   Subscribe

I just got our chicken share and it came with a bag of giblets, but it came with 5 bits I don't recognize. What part of the chicken is this?

Our chicken farmer is still kind of new at it. She had to move the chicken pickup time by three hours because she forgot to include time for the rigor mortis to subside. Apparently last week folks were skeeved by the twitching product. Anyway, she includes the giblets for those who ask for it, but she keeps including something I know is neither the heart, gizzard, nor liver. But I don't know what it is or if it's eatable. Each organ is about two centimeters wide. And why five from two chickens is another mystery. Can you identify these mystery giblets?
posted by Toekneesan to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Why do you think they aren't hearts?

A chicken farmer who butchers chickens but doesn't know the parts and delivers twitching chickens?!
posted by Houstonian at 5:57 AM on July 4, 2010

Might these be the chicken's sweetbreads? According to Wikipedia (in reference to calf and lamb sweetbreads): "The 'heart' sweetbreads are more spherical in shape, and surrounded symmetrically by the 'throat' sweetbreads, which are more cylindrical", which sort of matches the shapes in your photo.
posted by hot soup girl at 5:59 AM on July 4, 2010

You sure they ain't rooster fries, pre-frying? The chicken farmer must have killed more than two birds...maybe you just happened to get more fries and less of some other gizzard-y part.
posted by notsnot at 6:03 AM on July 4, 2010

They're hearts. When you get parts you get parts -- they don't always match the amount of chickens you got. If in doubt, cut open & see the ventricles...
posted by kidelo at 6:08 AM on July 4, 2010

Response by poster: I don't think they're hearts. Here's a picture of the hearts that came with the birds. Hearts on left, mystery meat on the right. I've sliced one of both and the tissue is very different. Also notice how the fat on a heart tends to develop along the top. On the organ in question it runs along the side.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:46 AM on July 4, 2010

Chicken liver?
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:58 AM on July 4, 2010

I think they're kidneys -- though I've never seen a chicken kidney before. If so, slicing them open will clinch it (see here).
posted by beniamino at 6:58 AM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

looks like a kidney
posted by leotrotsky at 6:58 AM on July 4, 2010

Response by poster: Nope, not the liver. And I doubt they're sweetbreads because they'd be pretty big for glands. I'm leaning toward kidneys too. Anyone ever eaten chicken kidneys?
posted by Toekneesan at 7:07 AM on July 4, 2010

Yep those look like kidneys to me. They are delicious sautéed in a bit of olive oil and mixed into a fresh salad, with vinaigrette drizzled on top right before serving (olive oil + wine vinegar + a touch of Dijon/traditional French mustard). The warm kidneys and cool salad make a nice contrast. (Here in France you can buy chicken kidneys, which I have in fact done because they are delicious. Also a good source of iron.)
posted by fraula at 7:22 AM on July 4, 2010

I was thinking kidneys too. Me so hungry.
posted by Max Power at 7:29 AM on July 4, 2010

A chicken farmer who butchers chickens but doesn't know the parts and delivers twitching chickens?!

This is not, speaking as a professional, someone I would ever buy anything from. If your supplier can't tell you what they're giving you, and cannot give it to you properly, there is likely a whole host of other things they don't know and/or are not doing properly.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:40 AM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: In defense of my chicken farmer, she raises and markets, but butchering is done by her Amish neighbor. I don't hold it against her that she thought giblets meant heart, livers, occasionally gizzards (they're messy to prepare, usually filled with half digested food, so we don't always get them), and if the Amish neighbor was throwing in the kidneys, it doesn't throw up a red flag for me.

This is her first year raising chickens, but she took over the flock from her friend who had to move, and she still gets guidance from him, though long-distance. She's doing her best and is committed to figuring it out, and I figure everyone has to start somewhere. Anyway, my point is, my csa stayed the same, only my chicken farmer changed. I'm willing to give her a season or two to figure it out. Her eggs are pretty awesome too.
posted by Toekneesan at 8:08 AM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I understand your feelings, but you are getting improperly prepared dangerous foodstuff. While chicken contamination in smaller operations is rare, it's not nonexistent, and they are clearly not butchering the chicken correctly if it is arriving still twitching. Your body, your choices, of course. But this is an unwise course of action.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:18 AM on July 4, 2010

Response by poster: Point taken. But if it arrives twitching, isn't the only problem really that it's too fresh?
posted by Toekneesan at 8:20 AM on July 4, 2010

Yes, but that isn't exactly the problem.

One of my chefs at school had this maxim: if there's dirt you can see, that means there's dirt you can't see. So if there are problems already, there are probably problems you don't even know about. One must, for example, be somewhat concerned about Amish (no modern technology; how do they feel about chemical sanitizers?) butchery and hygiene. (Don't get me wrong, I love Mennonite (Ontario Amish) food, and feel it's a risk worth taking, but you should think about it.)
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:42 AM on July 4, 2010

Best answer: I processed 250+ chickens last year, plus ducks and turkeys, and am preparing to do 75 next weekend, and another 50-75 every month through October ...

Those are kidneys. In fact on the plate in the picture in Houstonian's picture, the bits labeled as kidneys look to me like chunks of liver.
For reference, the testicles are small and white and look like pine nuts or maybe white kidney beans (in a young meat bird) or huge and yellowish and looking kind of like a small fingerling potato, in a mature rooster.
The heart is muscly and has compartments. These things are round and uniform in consistency, yeah?

The still twitching thing, however, is weird. I don't even know what that would look like. You can't process (scald, pluck, gut) it until it's done dying and has stopped twitching. Maybe the other folks were there during processing and observed the dying part? I don't know. I've never seen a bird that was still twitching even when it made it to me to get gutted, which is about 4-5 minutes after killing.

I also am not sure about the leaving time for rigor mortis thing. When we process, they go immediately into ice water; we have a Washington State legal requirement that the carcasses reach 45ยบ within 4 hours. I feel like this is a long time actually; it only takes about 1.5-2 on a hot day. Anyway, as they chill, any stiffening from rigor mortis is covered up by the fact that the carcasses are really cold and so are stiff from that. So I would wonder if the fact that the rigor mortis was observable means that they were not adequately chilled ... But I'd eat it anyway.

We do recommend that you wait 24 hours before freezing or eating, which I heard from other farmers but I can't find an authoritative source in print -- but I think the idea was to let it complete any rigor mortis or other post-death chemical activity that needs to happen.

on preview: the only chemical we use -- and need -- is diluted bleach. I don't know how the Amish feel about bleach. There is also something derived from lactic acid that has been shown to be as effective or more effective than chlorine bleach, but WSDA doesn't approve it yet for this use.
posted by librarina at 8:46 AM on July 4, 2010 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: That's very helpful.

As for the twitching thing, I think I assumed that when she said they were exhibiting rigor mortis. But that may just be my misunderstanding of the term. I did not observe any twitching. They came in sealed bags and pretty cold. They were halved and the giblets were in a separate bag.
posted by Toekneesan at 8:52 AM on July 4, 2010

Response by poster: Oh, and to my knowledge, the Amish have no qualms about bleach or chemicals in general. But things do vary by community.
posted by Toekneesan at 8:54 AM on July 4, 2010

This is not, speaking as a professional, someone I would ever buy anything from. If your supplier can't tell you what they're giving you, and cannot give it to you properly, there is likely a whole host of other things they don't know and/or are not doing properly.

I just wanted to drop by to say that this probably shouldn't be a criterion by which one judges their small poultry vendor. As far as I've seen, it's fairly common to hire someone else handle the slaughter and processing--there are small companies that do just this, and their business is navigating the legal requirements for safe and sanitary meat handling. This may not be a correct assumption, but when I'm dealing with small poultry operations like this csa, I assume that hiring someone else to handle this means that it's more likely that it has been done right/safely, not less.
posted by pullayup at 9:55 AM on July 4, 2010

Hiring someone else wasn't what I was concerned about--I am a huge fan of specialists.

My concern was, as I stated: If your supplier can't tell you what they're giving you, and cannot give it to you properly, there is likely a whole host of other things they don't know and/or are not doing properly.

posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:59 AM on July 4, 2010

Response by poster: They were delicious.

I dipped them in some egg and threw them in a ziplock with Louisiana Fish Fry's Seasoned Chicken Fry. I then pan fried them in a skillet with about two or three tablespoons of olive oil. The were creamy, and a bit granular, like livers. Not very chewy or springy like a heart or gizzard. So I guess they're edible. Unless my widow leaves an update about coping with my untimely death later in the week.
posted by Toekneesan at 12:02 PM on July 4, 2010 [6 favorites]

Is it too late for me to warn you not to eat them, because They Might Be The Poisonous Parts Of The Chicken?!?!?!?!
posted by IAmBroom at 9:35 AM on July 7, 2010


Just got home from a day-long conference thingy at which I attended a class on poultry diseases. In the brief anatomy overview, I learned that the small round purple thing is the SPLEEN, and the kidneys are sort of hidden and I haven't even been removing them usually. It's possible that Houstonian's picture is correct -- though I know what the kidneys are like, even though I didn't know they were kidneys, and I think they are longer than that. Not kidney-shaped like mammals', in any case.

Ugh. And I was so confident.

It's still plenty edible, though.
posted by librarina at 8:37 PM on January 29, 2011

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