The Dark Side of Cooking: See Naturally Black Chicken

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Did you know there was such a thing as black chicken? And I don’t mean as in dark feathers, but black skin, bones and even internal organs. There are actually several black chicken breeds in the world, especially in Asia, but the most popular of all has to be the Chinese Silkie.

Silkies are beautiful birds, covered in fluffy plumage, which is said to feel like silk, but underneath all that fluff they are far less attractive. Their skin is a dark-bluish color, the flesh is dark beige and the bones and some internal organs are pitch black. Although in the Western world silkie chickens are sold mainly for ornamental purposes, in countries like China they are considered a super food and are appreciated for their deep, gammy flavor. Called “wu gu ji” or “black-boned chicken”, the silkie has been prized for its medicinal value ever since the seventh or eighth century. Chinese women consume it after they have given birth to get a boost of energy, but it’s also said to have a positive effect on the yin, blood, lungs and stomach. Silkie meat is rarely roasted. To take full advantage of its curative properties, the Chinese mainly use it to make an amber-colored broth laced with ginseng , dried wolfberries and jujubes.

According to a genetic study published in 2011, the unique trait of silkie chickens, known as fibromelanosis, is caused by an unusual genetic mutation characterized as “a complex rearrangement that leads to increased expression of Endothelin 3, a gene which is known for promoting the growth of pigment cells”. The massive expansion of pigment cells not only makes the skin and bones black, but also causes dark internal organs. Another interesting thing about silkies is their high content 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 aging and alleviate diseases like diabetes or autism. Studies have shown the black chicken is one of the richest sources of carnosine.

If you’re wondering how black chicken meat tastes, most people say it’s no different than traditional chicken, but some say it’s a little sweeter. So, would you embrace the dark side and feast on the dark flesh of a silkie?

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