Can You Eat A Rooster? – Everything You Should Know

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Many of us eat chicken regularly, and this healthy poultry meat is now a popular family staple.

But did you know that when you buy chicken in the grocery store it is nearly always from a female chicken (also known as a hen)? Why is this and what happens to the males?

So, can you eat a rooster? The answer is yes, you can! Roosters are not commonly reared for meat, but they can be eaten, and many people enjoy the flavor of rooster meat. The taste of rooster is richer than hen chicken meat, and it needs cooking carefully as it can be tough.

Interested to find out more about whether you can eat a rooster? Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about the world of roosters!

What Is A Rooster?

A rooster is the name given to a male chicken, and a female chicken is referred to as a hen.

To avoid any confusion, you might come across some other names too! Up to the age of 1 year old, a male chicken is called a cockerel, and a female is a pullet.

If you see a farmyard flock of chickens the rooster should be pretty easy to spot. He will normally be larger than the hens and has a more flamboyant appearance.

The rooster has long tail feathers and a tall comb (the fleshy red skin on top of the head).

The most noticeable thing about a rooster is the noise they make! Roosters like to tell everyone when morning arrives and will crow loudly from sunrise onwards.

A rooster will have a larger body size than a hen and tends to be taller and leaner. In a farmyard situation, a rooster would have a group of hens to care for and keep safe.

His instincts mean that he is always on the alert for potential dangers, keeping him active all day long. 

Why Are Roosters Not Commonly Eaten?

In the U.S. roosters are not as popular as hen chickens. 

There are several reasons why roosters are not commonly eaten. The main reason is that they are not as easy to rear as a flock of hens.

Roosters are noisy creatures, and a barn full of crowing roosters would make an incredible noise!

Roosters are also difficult to rear as they do not like each other. These are territorial birds who all want a flock of hens of their own.

If you have too many roosters they will fight with each other and can do some serious damage to each other in the process.

On the other hand, a group of hens can be kept together with very little trouble. There may be some quiet clucking, and a few squabbles—after all, this is where the term “pecking order” came from!

But generally, they will live together quite happily.

So, if you are a chicken farmer, it makes sense to rear hens for meat instead of roosters! But if it was practical to rear roosters, would they be good to eat?

Can You Eat A Rooster?

In theory, there is no reason why roosters can’t be eaten. If there was a way to rear roosters without the squabbling and noise, then it is likely that they would be a common sight in the poultry section of your butchers or grocery store.

However, even though hens and roosters are the same species, there are some differences in their size, taste, and texture. It may also need cooking differently, as the texture of these two birds is not quite the same.

One type of rooster which you may have eaten without realizing is the Cornish hen! And yes, we know that they are called hens, but both genders of this little bird are normally eaten.

Cornish hens are a hybrid breed of hen, normally served as an individual bird per person.

The reason that Cornish roosters are eaten as well as the hens is because they are consumed at a young age—normally at around 4-5 weeks old.

This means that they have not grown old enough to start fighting and crowing. At this age, there are very few differences between males and females, and they can all be reared together.

Interestingly, in the past roosters would have been a common part of the human diet! Many people kept their own flock of hens for eggs, and these hens would rear clutches of chicks.

At least half of these chicks would normally turn out to be roosters, and there is only room for one rooster in a flock!

This meant that the excess roosters were kept separately and reared for meat. In fact, a century ago if you were eating chicken it would have been highly likely that it was a rooster!

What Does Rooster Taste Like?

OK, so we could eat rooster if we wanted to, but what does it taste like?

Roosters might come from the same eggs as hens, but when they are large enough to eat they are very different!

When grown to the same size as a hen chicken that we would normally buy in the grocery store, the meat of a rooster will be noticeably different from that of a hen.

Essentially, rooster meat does taste like chicken, but the flavor is stronger and more intense. The meat is darker in color and can be quite stringy. The taste of rooster meat is often likened to the meat from a turkey leg.

If a rooster is eaten at a younger age, it will taste much more like the chicken meat we are used to. So it may be that you could eat rooster meat and not be able to tell the difference!

What Is The Difference Between A Rooster And A Hen Chicken?

There are also some differences in the taste and texture of the meat of a rooster which many people do not enjoy. The meat is not quite the same as a hen and may need to be cooked in different ways to make the most of it.

Some people think that there is very little taste difference when eating a rooster vs a hen chicken. Both have a similar flavor but there are some subtle taste differences which you might pick up.

Very often the rooster will taste slightly stronger in flavor, but it depends on what type of bird you buy. A younger rooster will be very similar to a hen chicken in taste, whereas an older one can taste strong and slightly gamey.

As a hen chicken has a less active lifestyle, it is normally more tender in texture than the rooster. Rooster meat can be tough and leathery and needs cooking carefully to get the best out of this chewy meat.

The two types of chicken also have different body shapes, with the hen being shorter and plumper than the rooster. This means that overall, the rooster has less edible meat than a hen chicken.

The differences between hen and rooster meat may also come down to the way they are reared. Hens reared for meat are often kept in large barns in a big flock, and fed just a single source of food.

This is the most cost-effective way to rear hens, but the meat can be bland and lacking in flavor.

A rooster is more likely to come from a more natural environment, where he can move around more and access different food sources. He will eat weeds, herbs, insects, and grubs, foraging all day long.

This can greatly affect the flavor of the meat, as anyone who has eaten a free-range organic chicken will tell you!

Where To Buy A Rooster

Look in any grocery store and you’ll see multiple options for buying hen chicken meat. They can be sold whole, in portions, diced, skinless, boneless, or even minced! But where would you go to buy a rooster?

You might have a hard time finding a rooster for cooking in your grocery store. These birds are difficult to raise, and the problems associated with rearing roosters normally outweigh the benefits. 

However, if you ask your butcher, they may be able to order a rooster for you. It is unlikely that you would be able to source fresh rooster meat, but a frozen rooster is a feasible option.

With the rising demand for high-quality and sustainable meat products, you might see rooster chickens for sale more commonly in the future.

Many more people are focused on sourcing food that is ethically and humanely reared, and roosters could be the solution to this.

The reason for this is that, if not reared for meat, male chicks are culled at birth. The chicken meat and egg industry prefers to rear only female birds for practical reasons, and the males are considered superfluous.

However, some small-scale farmers are taking steps to enable them to rear roosters for meat, ensuring they have a happy and natural life.

How Do You Prepare A Rooster To Eat?

The important thing to remember about rooster meat is that it is much tougher and stringier than a hen chicken. For this reason, roosters are rarely roasted, as the meat will be chewy and inedible when prepared in this way.

To cook a rooster to perfection, there are 2 things it needs: moisture and time. If both of these are supplied in adequate quantities, you will be rewarded with meat that is succulent, tender, and full of flavor!

The best method for cooking a rooster is in a slow cooker or casserole. You can either cook the rooster whole if you have a dish big enough or cut it into portions.

To get the best out of your rooster, marinate it overnight before cooking.

The best marinades are those which contain acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice, as they will tenderize the meat perfectly. Alternative marinade bases include milk or wine.

Before cooking, bring your rooster meat to room temperature. Pop it into the casserole dish or slow cooker, and cook at a low temperature for as long as possible.

It will need at least 12 hours in a slow cooker, or 6 or more hours in a low oven.

Capon Vs Rooster – What’s The Difference?

You may have come across capon chickens for sale in a specialist butcher, or on the menu at your favorite restaurant. But what is a capon and how is it different from a rooster?

A capon is a male chicken that has been castrated before it reaches maturity. This is done for 2 reasons: it improves the quality of the meat while also being much less troublesome to rear.

After the young male chickens have been castrated, they are fed a diet rich in milk.

This is normally achieved by feeding porridge or a chicken feed supplemented with milk powder. A capon is normally allowed to grow to a much larger size than a standard hen chicken.

The meat of a capon is very different from that of a rooster. It is very white and tends to have a delicate marbling of fat.

They have full breasts and are a large size, making them suitable for a large family celebration such as Thanksgiving or Christmas.

A capon will not have the rich, gamey flavor that you can expect from a rooster. This is because they have been castrated, eliminating testosterone from the body. The meat is much more like a hen chicken, but with a more intense flavor.

Capons are more commonplace than roosters as they are easier to rear. The castration process removes their desire to fight, and they can live together very happily. They also become calmer and less active, keeping their meat tender.

It can still be difficult to source a capon, but they are more commonplace than roosters. Capon was considered a delicacy, and it is a bird well worth trying!

The main problem with sourcing capons is that the process of castrating a chicken has been made illegal in some countries.

This is because it was felt to be an unnecessarily painful process, and was not carried out correctly. So if you are tempted to try eating capon, please make sure it has been reared humanely!

Related Questions

Now that we’ve looked at why rooster isn’t as common at your local grocer, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!

What is a Poussin chicken?

A Poussin chicken is a young chicken that is eaten when it is just 4-6 weeks old. The name Poussin is a French term, and these tiny hens are normally served as 1 bird per person.

Also referred to as spring chicken, these little chickens are not particularly flavorsome. However, they are normally paired with a rich stuffing and sauce and are considered to be a delicacy.

What is a broiler chicken?

A broiler is a term given to any type of chicken reared specifically for meat. Broiler chickens are normally female, as they can live together peacefully with minimal problems.

They are generally reared in large barns. Free-range broilers live a more natural lifestyle, with access to the outdoors and opportunities to forage.

The life cycle of a broiler chicken is relatively short, and they are ready to eat from just seven weeks of age. A broiler is normally a specially-selected breed of chicken, which will grow to maturity in the shortest possible time. 

Does free-range chicken taste better?

If we’re looking for the chicken with the best flavor, is free-range the way to go? Barn reared broilers will eat just one type of food their entire lives, and the meat can taste bland and be lacking in flavor.

A free-range hen has opportunities to forage freely and will eat a much more varied diet. They will nibble away at grasses, weeds, and herbs, and live a much happier life.

This gives the meat of a free-range hen a much richer and more intense flavor.

Unfortunately, free-range chickens are normally more expensive than barn-reared broilers. But for just a small amount more, you will be rewarded with a high-welfare bird with a sublime and delectable flavor!

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