In this post I hope to answer the question many others beside myself have had. The questions is, why are chicken wings so small?
I believe there are 3 main reasons for why people have this questions.
First, I believe people may not be considering that there are a number of different breeds of chicken with some variance between their meat yield and mature size.
Second, I believe that people don’t know the difference between the functions that each part of the chicken plays while the chicken is still alive.
Third, I think people don’t consider the anatomy of the chicken wing before casting judgement on it.
There Are Different Chicken Breeds With Different Purposes
Contrary to common knowledge, there are a plethora of different chicken breeds, all of them bred for a specific purpose.
Some chickens are bred for their plumage to be raised as pets. Although this doesn’t concern those of us more interested in eating them than in raising them!
Chickens can be raised because they lay a larger quantity of eggs than other chickens, while some chickens reach maturity quicker so they cost less to feed and the farmer can bring their product to market much sooner.
Conversely, there are chickens that take much longer to mature, but produce much larger quantities of meat.
Some of them are a hybrid between both quick egg layers and quick to mature!
The point being that there is a lot more diversity to the chicken population than first meets the eye.
Furthermore, one common misconception people have when they are served small chicken wings at a restaurant is that they may have been served baby chicken wings.
I can’t stress enough how this is not standard practice! But rather, they more than likely received wings from either a smaller breed of chicken, or from a chicken that may have been undernourished.
Although I can attest to having received a paltry sized chicken wing or two before, rest easy knowing baby chickens aren’t being served to you.
Alongside the different breeds of chickens, many people don’t consider the functionality of the chicken wing as it pertains to the chicken as a whole.
Chicken Wings Need to be Lightweight for Flying
Again, a common misconception that people have about chickens is that they belieive chickens can’t fly.
This is utterly wrong, as chickens can fly about 10 feet in height and as far as 300 feet hoizontally!
Now that we know that chicken wings actually help chickens fly, we can apply some basic anatomy.
Let’s deduce why they’re so teeny when compared to, say, a chicken thigh.
What is the function of a thigh? It is a bundle of muscle, bone and fiber used to help things walk, which chickens do quite a lot!
In fact, since the modern chicken is so useful as a meat source, many of the chickens have been bred so that they have fattier and larger breasts, which impedes flying.
Plus, since the thigh is used so often, it causes the muscles to be leaner and darker, which is the main difference between dark and light meat in chicken.
So, the main difference between a wing and a thigh is how the chicken uses them, and how often.
Much like the principle, “Use it or Lose it”, the same applies to chicken wings, resulting in a body part that is much smaller than its other body parts.
Plus, regardless of the frequency a chicken uses its wings, the chicken also wouldn’t need much size in its wings because that impedes flying!
Now that we know why a chicken wing is smaller than other parts of the chicken, now we can tackle the specifics of chicken wing anatomy.
Chicken Wings Are Bigger Than Most People Think
The third misconception people have about wings is that there is only one part of the wing, the wingette. See the forearm muscle in the below photo.
More commonly used in Buffalo Style Wings, the wingette, also known as the flat, is what most people think of when they think of chicken wings.
However, I’m going to dispel the myth that the city of Buffalo, New York casts upon wing lovers everywhere! Even though I highly recommend making hot wings at home.
When you order whole wings, especially in Memphis, Tennessee (where they love their whole wings), you get the drummy (bicep and tricep above), the wingette, and the tip (far right).
This method of serving lets you break up the chicken yourself, and you can use the flat to scoop up any sauce you missed. It’s great! In fact, It’s my preferred style to eat chicken wings.
But I digress, since I believe that people assume chicken wings are small because a lot of people prefer buffalo wings, which only serves the flat!
In fact, see the below chart, which shows the last 12 month of Google search volume for ‘Buffalo Wings’ vs ‘Chicken Wings’! Buffalo has more than twice the attention, which shows how much of an impact they have on wing culture.
Now we see that many people are only referring to 1/3rd the length of the wing when arguing that wings are small.
In conclusions, we learned that there are three main reasons that people believe chicken wings are small.
First, that they may have received a non-standard chicken breed’s wings in their meal (and not baby chickens!).
Second, that chicken wings are inherently smaller than other parts of their body because they have to be small and lightweight for flight, while not work as hard due to modern breeding practices for chickens.
Third, we learned that buffalo wings, which are very popular, do not accurately represent the whole size of the wing. This gives people a false perception of wing size!
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