No, it’s not a Halloween treat! It’s Silkie meat simmering in a stock!
Silkies have a few unique qualities. They are some of the most unusual-looking chickens around with their fluffy feathers, extra toes and blue earlobes – and that’s just the start! Silkies are one of the few chicken breeds that have black skin. This means that they are not only odd little characters, but also quite sought-after by show chicken aficionados and Asian cooks alike.
The dark skin of the Silkie chicken is what makes it such a delicacy in Asian countries, and in some areas of the world, Silkie chickens are even kept for meat, although this isn’t a commonplace practice.
We have enough experience raising Silkies to be able to tell you all about this black-skinned beauty and the unique quality of its meat. In this article, we’ll take a look at exactly what makes them such a highly prized ingredient in Asian cuisine and whether or not it’s worth it keeping Silkies for their meat. So, let’s get right into it, shall we?
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The Silkie chicken has a very unique characteristic shared by breeds like the Ayam Cemani that is calleddermal hyperpigmentation. This quality is also called fibromelanosis and is characterized by the unusual and distinctive black skin. Although you can’t see it, this quality also causes the bones and internal organs of the bird to be dark approaching black.
"We have shown that the genetic change causing fibromelanosis is a complex rearrangement that leads to increased expression of Endothelin 3, a gene which is known for promoting the growth of pigment cells," explains Ben Dorshorst, a post-doctoral researcher, in a study published in PLoS Genetics researchers at Uppsala University, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, North Carolina State University and National Chung-Hsing University where they investigated the genetic basis of fibromelanosis, a breed characteristic of the Silkie chicken.
If you part the feathers of a Silkie chicken, you will see that their skin is black and a close look will reveal that their beaks and legs are slate blue, almost dark grey in color too. They also have darker combs and wattles than most other chickens. Where the average chicken generally has a red comb and wattles, the comb and wattles as well as facial skin of the Silkie is a deep blue-grey in color, with mulberry-colored combs seen in some color varieties.
Although our dark-skinned Silkies are pretty to look at, their black skin is also exactly what makes them a special delicacy in the Orient.
Silkies have black skin and bones and their meat is darker than that of regular chickens, which means that they are highly sought-after as table fare in the Asian countries. However, their small stature means that they aren’t the best meat producers, so although they are seen as a gourmet bird in some countries, they aren’t considered table fare or even dual production birds by most of the world.
“Traditional farm breeds may take six months or more to reach full size, and will have run around being chickens for that long,” says Lissa Lucas of mypetchicken.com, who adds that “Commercial meat chickens are tender because they’re young and have little space to exercise those muscles. To raise Silkies for meat, it would cost way more in feed and time to produce a smaller, tougher bird.”
Silkie have a rich history of Chinese tradition, folklore, and culture. Their dark meat, skin, and bones are believed to have medicinal qualities. Traditionally, the meat and skin were eaten, and then bones were used for stock. The bones were then ground into powder and turned into a variety of medicines. Recent studies have shown that there may even be some truth to this--the dark meat, skin, and bones are rich in antibodies. The stock is also well known for increasing fertility.
The black meat of a Silkie is generally considered an unusual attribute in European and American cuisines. In contrast, several Asian cuisines consider Silkie meat a gourmet food. Chinese cuisine especially values the breed, but it is also a common ingredient in some Japanese, Cambodian, Vietnamese and Korean dishes. Areas where Chinese cuisine has a strong influence, such as Malaysia, may also cook Silkies.
As early as the 7th century, traditional Chinese medicine has held that chicken soup made with Silkie meat is a curative food. A curative food is believed to have medicinal and healing properties and Chinese people use curative foods as a form of diet or food therapy.
It is believed that Silkie soup, augmented with ginger, goji berries and red dates will increase female fertility, nourish a developing human fetus and restore the vitality of a woman who has recently given birth. It’s a nice connection to the Silkie’s own excellent maternal instincts.
The usual methods of cooking include using Silkie to make broth, braising, and in curries. But for the most part, cooking Silkie meat is a lot like cooking regular chicken, although it does taste a little different and differs in quality ever so slightly.
However, for the most part, Silkies aren’t kept for their meat even though their darker skin pigmentation may make them a delicacy in certain countries. These little birds take long to grow and mature and they are fairly small in size even when they’ve reached their full adult height and weight. If you’re interested in keeping chickens for meat, there are several other breeds such as the Cornish, which are better suited to table fare production. For more information on all of the different chicken breeds and their egg and meat production qualities, check out the Ultimate Guide to Chicken Breeds from A – Z over at Chickenpedia!
Well, the most obvious difference between a Silkie and a regular chicken is the size. Silkies are very small, being a true bantam, and will therefore yield less meat than a regular chicken when slaughtered. They are considered small and bony and due to this and the odd color of their skin, meat and bones, they are preferred for soups and stocks.
The darker meat of the Silkie chicken is said to taste even better than regular chicken with a much leaner and more gamey feel. That is why it is often incorporated in soups and sauces and not eaten outright as a breast or fried in large pieces. Plus, the meat is rich in amino acids, protein, and vitamin B. It is also far less greasy than traditional chicken and works well with stronger seasonings.
As well as looking very different to other chicken meat, Silkie meat actually does have a fair bit of nutritional benefits which sets them apart from chicken you may pick up in your local supermarket.
Silkie meat contains 21.4g of protein per 100g, just 2.6g of fat and 0.8g of saturated fat. In comparison 100g of regular chicken has around 5g of fat and 1g of saturated fat, much more than the Silkie. Silkie meat also contains only 121 calories per 100g compared to around 150 calories in standard supermarket chicken.
The interesting thing about Silkie meat is the high levels of carnosine, a naturally occurring peptide which is sold as a dietary supplement. People take it to increase muscle mass, ward of the effects of ageing and alleviate diseases like diabetes or autism. Studies have shown the black chicken is one of the richest sources of carnosine.
So, the research backs up that which the Asian countries know – Silkie meat is good for you!
So, there you go. Silkies aren’t an ordinary ingredient, but they are cooked in some cuisines and present a host of nutritional benefits. Look at thisvideo for a recipe and instructions on how to cook a rich and wonderful Silkie chicken soupinside of a pumpkin!
Although Silkies aren’t generally kept for their meat, that doesn’t mean that nobody does it. If you have a backyard flock that you are allowing to breed, you may one day find yourself with one too many roosters in your flock. If this is the case, humanely slaughtering the surplus cockerels to produce meat for your family, is one way of making sure that they don’t suffer and that they don’t end up neglected as there are already way too many unwanted roosters in the world.
However, regardless of whether or not you’re culling roosters to keep your flock well-balanced, many people may choose to keep Silkies specifically for their meat. This will be mostly due to the fact that Silkie meat is delicious and highly nutritious and even considered a delicacy as we’ve explored earlier in this article.
If you’d like to keep Silkies for meat or you’re merely interested in the table fare aspect of Silkies, let’s take a look at whether or not there are special requirements when it concerns keeping Silkies as meat birds.
Feeding Silkies doesn’t differ much from feeding any other breed of chicken. You’d typically feed them a commercial grade starter/grower feed if they were hatchlings or chicks and you’d move to layer feed if you were keeping them for eggs or merely as ornamental pets.
However, if you were keeping Silkies for their meat, finisher feed should be used for producing the best meat quality, and this food should be fed for 6 weeks until slaughter. It’s also a good idea to feed your chicks with broiler starter feed instead of a chick starter feed, if you want to keep the birds for meat.
Silkies are a true bantam, meaning that they’re small. And they grow incredibly slowly when compared to other chickens, so you may find that they are still unusually small at slaughter time.
Unless you have the larger types, the standard sized fowl, then Silkies will generally produce a tiny carcass. If you’re lucky, they will dress out to about a pound on average for a six-month-old cockerel.
If you wait until 30 weeks of age, you can expect a standard-sized Silkie cockerel to dress out at approximately 2.5 pounds. But it costs more the longer you wait to slaughter date and, of course, the longer you wait, the tougher the bird will be.
It is best to slaughter your Silkies between 6 – 12 months of age. If they are much younger than this, they will be too small, won’t have filled out and you won’t have a decent meat-to-bones ratio. If you wait until they are a year old or older, they will most likely be quite tough and won’t be very nice to eat.
So, that’s that on Silkie meat! The Silkie is prized around the world for its unique fluffy plumage, unusual black skin and bones, and docile temperament.
They are excellent pets and great for beginner chicken keepers who will enjoy their calm personalities. They also have great mothering skills, make excellent broody hens and will happily raise as many chicks as they can for you.
While their meat isn’t eaten often in Europe or North America, it is possible to find traditional dishes throughout Asia which utilize Silkie meat and bones for the chicken’s unique taste and nutrition.
Have you ever tasted Silkie chicken meat? Let us know in the comments what you thought of it!
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