A rooster serves many purposes in a flock of backyard chickens, but if your rooster has reached the end of his days, you might be wondering – are roosters edible? As somebody who has raised chickens for many years, I’ve done the research necessary to answer that question.
Are roosters edible? Yes, roosters most certainly are edible. A rooster may not have breasts that are as tender and juicy as those of a hen, but in most cases, it’s unlikely that you’ll even know the difference as you’re dining on your favorite chicken entree.
Regardless of whether you are raising chickens for eggs, meat, or simply as pets, the rooster is a vital member of any healthy flock. Unfortunately, every rooster has to meet his eventual demise, and it doesn’t make sense for a perfectly good meat bird to go to waste. Here’s what you need to know about eating roosters.
Can You Eat Roosters?
Up until the early 1900s, it never crossed anybody’s mind to not eat a rooster. Until this time, roosters were kept until adulthood because there weren’t any reliable methods of determining a chicken’s sex at birth.
When these reliable methods were mastered in the upcoming years, farmers realized that they no longer had to feed chicks until they could be identified as male. The egg industry benefited from raising single-sex chickens, and so most roosters (except for those from commercial meat chicken breeds) were culled at birth.
Today, backyard chicken keepers often find themselves with accidental roosters – you order a batch of sexed hens and find that one of them has begun to crow! If you’re wondering whether you can dispose of that rooster by cooking him, don’t worry – you absolutely can. But first, you need to make sure that what you have is actually a rooster.
Roosters are male chickens that are kept around specifically for breeding purposes. These adults usually have prominent tail feathers and combs, and they also are able to crow. A capon, on the other hand, is a castrated male chicken that is kept around for meat production. A cockerel is a young, immature rooster – he probably doesn’t have any of the defining features of a rooster yet.
If you know that you want to raise a male chicken specifically for meat production, consider raising a capon instead of an all-purpose rooster. Capons grow slower than roosters, so they are able to put on more body fat. More fat equals more flavor.
Best Edible Rooster Breeds
Although you can eat a rooster of any breed – it is perfectly safe and normal to do so – breed plays a big role in how good your rooster is going to taste.
In general, roosters who are members of big, beefy, meat-producing breeds are going to be the best for the dinner table. Look for a meat-specific breed that grows out quickly and has a good feed conversion ratio instead of one that is bred specifically for egg production.
Many heritage breeds of chickens can live for multiple years, while meat birds are typically butchered at six to ten weeks – before they reach maturity and become overly tough.
Here are some excellent breeds to consider if you want your roosters to be edible:
- Cornish Cross
- Jersey Giant
- Freedom Ranger
Regardless of breed, keep in mind that all chickens get tougher with age – regardless of gender. The best tasting roosters will be those that were raised on pasture and with high-quality feed.
How to Prepare a Rooster for Eating
There is absolutely no “off” taste or flavor associated with roosters. Chances are, once you get your bird cleaned and into the roaster, you probably aren’t going to know the difference at all.
However, roosters that have been allowed to grow to adulthood are often quite tough (for the record, this is often true of old hens, too). As a result, the best thing to do with these old roosters is to either slow-cook them all day in the crockpot, cook them in a pressure cooker, or make a soup.
You can even boil the bones down once you’re done with the rooster carcass and use them to make bone broth. There’s no reason to waste any part of the rooster, as its meat and bones contain all the same beneficial nutrients that you will find in a hen. You could even grind up the meat and use it as a substitute for ground turkey!
The most important thing to remember is that a rooster is just as edible as a hen – you just have to know the best ways to prepare it.