An average chicken today weighs a pound and a half more than the average chicken two decades ago. But from a feed conversion standpoint, it's actually more expensive to grow the birds bigger, explains Bill Roenigk, Senior VP of the National Chicken Council. The efficiency of handling bigger birds at the processing plant, though, offsets the cost of the feed.
But bigger isn't better for everybody. Mike Sobel, director of purchasing for Zaxby's, a Southeast chicken chain, says big tenderloins don't fit his sandwich buns, and the meat can be tough and take longer to cook. Suppliers will cut it down to size, but that's not an appealing option for Sobel. "The meat just isn't as palatable."
Specifying these smaller "select" pieces over line-run products is pricey. Sobel pays an average of 52 cents extra for his cuts. What worries him most, though, is availability. "There are only so many tenders of that size range to go around."
If you're stuck with the bigger birds, Gregory Fatigate, associate dean of culinary arts at the CIA, suggests brining them for 12-24 hours in a salt solution enhanced with citrus or citric acid. It adds prep time, but helps with taste and texture.