When Is Buying Chicken Parts Cheaper Than Buying a Whole Chicken?

Corey —  September 13, 2010

       You may have heard that buying a whole chicken and cutting it up yourself is cheaper than buying chicken parts (legs, thighs, wings, breasts) separately. And most of the time that’s absolutely right – especially when whole chickens are on sale. But there are times when chicken parts are cheaper than a whole chicken (usually when they’re on sale and whole chickens aren’t).

       The question is: how do you know when you’re getting a good deal? Well, with some information from the More-With-Less Cookbook based on data from the USDA, here’s how to know when it’s cheaper to buy chicken parts instead of a whole chicken.

  • Breasts – Buy chicken breasts when their per pound price is equal to or less than 1.4 times the per pound price for whole broiler-fryer chickens.

  • Drumsticks, Thighs, or Legs – Buy chicken drumsticks, thighs, or legs (the drumstick & thigh together) when their per pound price is equal to or less than 1.3 times the per pound price for whole broiler-fryer chickens.

  • Wings – Buy chicken wings when their per pound price is equal to or less than 0.8 times the per pound price for whole broiler-fryer chickens.

How to Use This Information

       When you’re going to buy chicken, simply look at the per pound price for a whole broiler-fryer. Multiply by the appropriate factor (1.4, 1.3, or 0.8) and compare that to the price for the respective chicken parts (breasts, drumsticks/thighs/legs, or wings). If the price for the part is equal to or lower than the price you came up with, then the parts are a good buy. If not, you should buy the whole chicken.

       If you want several of one particular chicken part but they’re not on sale, then your best option is to buy several whole chickens, cut them up yourself, and freeze the rest for later. Now, I’m sure many of you have never cut up a whole chicken before, so if you need a little guidance I recommend this episode from Good Eats by Alton Brown:

       Another good option when whole chickens are on sale is to simply roast the whole chicken in your oven. The meat itself is often enough for two or three meals for a family of four, plus you get the bones for making chicken stock (very useful and tasty stuff). Again, some Good Eats episodes are quite handy for this. I’d suggest these two:

Your Tips

       Have you ever bought a whole chicken and fixed it? What are your tips for first-timers? Share your ideas in the comments below!

P.S. Thanks to The Digerati Life for reminding me to write about this!



Corey is currently pursuing a Master of Arts degree in religion. While he enjoys learning and writing about Christianity, another one of his new passions is writing about personal finances in order to help others make wise decisions with their money.

6 responses to When Is Buying Chicken Parts Cheaper Than Buying a Whole Chicken?

  1. I love this advice, not for the actual “how to buy a chicken” aspect but the thinking outside of the box message!

    Right now I have two post-it notes on my desk. One says “vaction home,” and is what I’m working for. (It actually means “early retirement” but that’s not a good note to have on your desk at work!).

    The other says: Is there a better way?
    It’s amazing how just looking at “is there a better way?” on a post-it note at my desk finds me time, money and quality of work. Great post!

  2. Thanks for commenting, Nick! I’m glad you liked the driving idea behind the post. I think a lot of personal finance can come down to that question, “Is there a better way?” Anything from saving money or making money to investing or insurance. To get the most efficient use of your time and money, you have to keep asking yourself that question. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, and I hope to see you around again soon!

  3. Working at KFC for 2 years took all the mystery out of chicken for me. Where I am, whole chickens frequently go on sale for .99/lb and less often they go on sale for .76/lb. Other bone in chicken parts also go on sale for .99/lb. However, even at .76/lb, I’ll still pay .99/lb for the bone in breasts–which matches up with their matrix. For those who’ve never bought a whole chicken, the reason they are such a poor deal compared with the breasts is that you are paying for neck bones, gizzards, and organs (a neat bundle packaged inside the cleaned out chicken). Unless you are making stock all these extra parts don’t do you any good and you have to toss stuff you paid for. So–making stock–buy the whole chicken. If not, follow the guidelines above.

  4. Great points, Denise, and thanks for commenting! Some people may still choose to buy the chicken parts just for the convenience of not having to cut it up themselves even though it’s not that difficult. But like you said, if you want to make a flavorful stock you really need the whole chicken.

    Regarding gizzards, I remember when my mamaw used to cook them up. I think I actually liked them, but I’m not sure why. Thinking about it now I’m not sure I’d eat them today! :)

  5. I love to throw a whole chicken in a roasting pan for Sunday lunch! I just rinse the bird, sprinkle with a seasoning of some sort and put in the oven (for crispy skin) or the crockpot for a few hours. Super easy! Then I debone what is left over and make stock with the carcass! Super nutritious broth! Left over meat goes into a soup or casserole during the week. PS. Love that cook book!

  6. Sounds like a delicious and easy meal for Sunday lunch, Melissa! You’re taking good advantage of the leftovers as well by making stock and using the extra bits of meat. Thanks for stopping by!