When people talk about eating meat, they’re usually talking about tucking into a nice juicy steak, or perhaps a succulent pork chop. Is chicken meat, or does it fall into another category?
Is Chicken Meat?
Yes. Chicken is the flesh of an animal, which puts it squarely in the meat category. While there’s a subdivision of “vegetarians” who eliminate red meat from their diets and consume only seafood and poultry, there’s no getting away from the fact that chicken was once a living thing, and is therefore a meat product.
The Pollo-Pescetarian Phenomenon
A growing number of people are following plant-based diets. Vegetarianism, once seen as a passing fad, has been substantiated as a healthy way of life, provided you don’t neglect your protein intake.
But not everyone follows a strict vegetarian regimen. There’s a subset of vegetarians who call themselves pollo-pescetarians. If you know your Latin roots, you might already know that this term refers to the consumption of chicken and fish.
Pollo-pescetarians don’t eat red meat products. That means they avoid beef, mutton, veal, pork, lamb, goat, and venison. However, they do allow themselves to consume poultry and seafood, including shellfish.
The pollo-pescetarian diet is sometimes called a “semi-vegetarian” diet, owing to the fact that you are allowed to consume some meat products while following it. Some pollo-pescetarians consume dairy and eggs, while others choose to avoid these as well.
There are several reasons why people might opt for a pollo-pescetarian diet. Perhaps they’re doing so for health reasons, as red meat is higher in fat and cholesterol. Or maybe they’re attempting to lower their carbon footprint.
There could also be religious restrictions involved. Certain Buddhist traditions, for example, forbid the consumption of red meat for ethical reasons. Or perhaps the individual wants to try a plant-based diet, but isn’t ready to give up meat entirely.
Is Chicken Meat?
Although it’s not always considered a carnivore’s dream, yes, chicken definitely counts as meat.
At its core, meat is defined as the edible flesh of an animal. Although subcategories do exist (see below), the basic definition remains the same.
A chicken is a living animal—at least until it’s slaughtered. That means it falls under the category of meat products. As any strict vegetarian will tell you, if it ever had a face, it’s meat.
It might be hard to understand why there would be any confusion on this issue. Obviously, if an animal is killed for consumption, it’s a meat product. So why would anyone ask whether chicken is meat in the first place?
First of all, it’s not a mammal. The religious practices we mentioned earlier don’t apply to poultry, so that might be part of the distinction.
There’s also the fact that chicken is white meat, which makes it lower in fat. That could be enough to convince diners that they’re not “really” eating meat.
Subcategories of Meat
Let’s take a look at the main categories of meat products to find out why certain products are classified as they are.
Beef is perhaps the most well-known of all the red meats. It refers to the flesh of a grown cow or steer. If the meat comes from a young calf, then it’s classified as veal, which is also considered red meat despite its pale color.
Lamb is another example of red meat. So is mutton, which comes from the edible flesh of a mature sheep. Mutton and lamb are similar in terms of flavor, but lamb has a more tender texture.
Although pork has been called “the other white meat,” it counts as red meat as well. The distinction lies in the amount of myoglobin—the protein that gives meat its rosy color—that can be found in the flesh.
Goat isn’t widely consumed in the US, but it’s also classified as red meat. Essentially, if the animal in question is a type of livestock, its flesh is considered red meat.
The poultry category consists of chicken, turkey, duck, and goose. Though these latter two have darker flesh that can be served medium rare, most people agree that they fall under the white meat classification.
Poultry may be the most popular meat category. Chicken is widely consumed across the globe, and its versatility makes it a staple on many restaurant menus. The others are seen more as “special occasion” dishes, but they’re still in high demand.
In general, all fish are considered seafood. This can be confusing when it comes to freshwater fish like trout, but if it had fins and scales, it can be sold in seafood markets.
Crustaceans, such as lobster, shrimp, and crab, also fall into the seafood category. They’re joined by mussels, oysters, clams, and scallops—also known as mollusks.
Seafood tends to be more expensive than other types of meat. While it may be widely available in coastal regions, most people still consider it to be a rare treat.
Why It Matters
If you’re trying to follow a plant-based diet, it’s important to know whether chicken is a meat product. But there are a few other health-related concerns as well.
When you’re preparing vegetables, you don’t need to worry as much about contaminating surfaces with bacteria. While it’s a good idea to wash them beforehand, you can use the same cutting board for vegetables that you would for cheese or fresh herbs.
Raw meat is another story. Animal flesh might harbor bacteria, which might make you sick if you were to ingest it. These bacteria are destroyed at high temperatures, which is why it’s crucial to cook meat properly.
When handling raw meat, including chicken, you should always wash your hands before and after. Washing them prior to handling ensures that you won’t contaminate the meat any further, while washing them afterward will get any lingering bacteria off your skin.
Don’t reuse any cutting board or utensils that have come into contact with raw chicken. If you’ve used a set of tongs to put the chicken on the grill, either wash it or use a different set to turn the meat and remove it from the heat.
Finally, make sure to wash all the tools as soon as possible after prepping raw chicken. You might even want to designate a special set of utensils to be used only with raw meat products.
Other Tips for Safe Handling
First and foremost: Keep chicken refrigerated as much as possible. Storing the meat at a temperature between 33 and 38 degrees will slow bacterial growth, keeping it fresh longer.
When stored at these temps, raw chicken should keep for a day or two. Try to cook it off as soon as you can. Once it’s cooked, the chicken will keep for another 3 to 4 days.
The best place to store meat—especially when it’s still raw—is on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, toward the back. It will stay colder there.
Whether raw or cooked, meat should never be left out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. You can bring it up to room temperature for 30 minutes or so, but don’t wait too long—bacteria thrive at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees.
If you’re not going to cook the chicken—or eat the leftovers—within a reasonable time frame, you can freeze it instead. Freezing the meat will halt bacterial growth indefinitely, but it’s better to thaw it within a few months whenever possible.
Is chicken meat? Yes. But it falls under the subcategory of poultry, which makes it more palatable to some people.
Whether you’re trying to cut back on saturated fats or transitioning to an entirely plant-based diet, there’s nothing wrong with eliminating red meat from your diet. But no matter how you look at it, chicken is meat.