Price Shopping: Whole Chickens vs. Chicken Parts

Whole chickens cost less per pound than parts but there’s waste. Is it cheaper to buy whole chickens and break them down yourself?

We broke down a half-dozen chickens and found that, on average, the trim (backs and wingtips) accounted for 20 percent of the weight of whole chickens. So to compare the price per pound of a whole chicken versus parts, multiply the per pound price of the whole bird by 1.25; if it’s still lower than the price of the parts, then it’s cheaper to cut up the whole bird. At our local supermarket, a whole chicken goes for $3.59 per pound, making a 3½-pound bird $12.57. If we were using that chicken for parts, accounting for the waste would make the price $15.71 ($12.57 times 1.25). If we were to buy all the parts separately, the total price would be $13.75 ($12.47 if we purchased the leg quarters instead of separated thighs and drumsticks).

Considering the prices at our local grocery store, unless we’re going to use the backs and wingtips for stock, it’s slightly more economical to buy the parts. So if breaking down a whole chicken for the parts may not save you money, why do the work? It does offer a few advantages in addition to trim for stock. If you buy the whole bird, you’ll know that the size of the parts will be consistent, and you won’t have any unpleasant surprises that make the real price of the parts hard to determine, like leg quarters with pieces of the backbone attached and split breasts with part of the rib cage left on.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Although buying a whole chicken and cutting it into parts may not save money, there are other advantages.

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