Poultry Buying Guide

Chicken is a low cost everyday menu option, while turkey, duck and Cornish hen are great for special occasions. This poultry buying guide shows you what to look for when shopping for meals.

Poultry 101

Poultry is always an excellent choice when planning nutritious meals for your family. It is high in protein and low in both calories and fat. Roasting a whole chicken or turkey can save time and money by providing a delicious dinner, plus leftovers for other meals. Duck and game hens have a richer flavour, and are fantastic paired with robust sides and a good red wine. From a health standpoint, white meat is slightly lower in fat and calories than the dark meat on legs and wings, and also packs more protein. However, the higher fat content in dark meat helps keep it moist and less likely to dry out if overcooked.

Types of Poultry



Chicken is popular because it’s economical and can be used in a range of different recipes. It can be roasted, fried, barbecued or cooked in a crock pot. You can marinate chicken with various sauces, or add simple seasoning herbs and spices to accent flavour. Chicken is also a great base for casserole, soup and stew recipes from all over the world. It is readily available whether your recipe calls for a whole chicken, chicken breasts, thighs or drumsticks. Chicken can also come in free-range, organic, and antibiotic and hormone-free options.


Turkey is ideal for holiday menus and large gatherings because you can buy a whole turkey big enough to feed an entire group. To calculate the right size, count on one to one-and-a-half pounds per person. Turkey and turkey pieces are also becoming popular for everyday meals. Turkey breast is a great alternative to a whole turkey, particularly if white meat is your family’s favourite. There is no difference in quality between a fresh and frozen turkey. If you buy the turkey well in advance of cooking, frozen is best. Buy fresh turkey one to two days before cooking. 

Cornish Hen

Cornish hens are a young, immature chickens weighing less than two pounds, with a stronger, more savory taste than chicken. They are usually sold frozen, so they require two days in the refrigerator to thaw before cooking. Cornish hens are less meaty than chicken, so when serving, count on one-half to one whole hen per person. The bones are not strong and are easy to split before or after cooking. Roasting is the best method of cooking Cornish hen, and they can be stuffed in the same way as chicken and turkey.


Rich and flavourful, duck is smaller and has less meat compared to other poultry. A four-pound duck will feed two to four people. Duck meat is darker than chicken or turkey and also has a higher fat content, more calories and saturated fat. Since duck is fattier than other poultry, removing the fat is an important part of roasting. Prior to cooking, pierce the skin down to the fatty layer all over the bird without cutting into the meat. Leave one-inch spaces between each piercing. Cooking melts the fat and the piercings allow it run out during roasting. 

Poultry Buying Tips:

• Check that the skin is free of cuts, bruises and other imperfections when buying fresh whole poultry
• Check the best-before date on fresh poultry
• Ensure the packaging does not have any holes or tears
• Check the ends of the bones — the more pink in colour, the fresher the meat 
• Check the colour and smell of the meat and make sure it is cold to the touch to ensure it has been stored properly
• When buying frozen poultry make sure it is solidly frozen with no freezer damage or ice crystals on the surface of the packaging
• Freezer burn appears as grey-brown spots on the meat and those areas should be cut away before or after cooking

Poultry Features

Breasts +

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are one of the most versatile cuts of meat you can have in your kitchen. They can be poached, fried, sautéed and even stuffed with other ingredients for baking. Chicken and turkey breasts are widely available and can be purchased either de-boned or with the bones still in place, though boneless breasts will cost a little more. Breast meat can become dry if overcooked, which is why it’s often used in casseroles and stews, or cooked using marinades and basting sauces.

Wings +

The entire wing is all white meat but composed of three sections: the drummette, mid-section and tip. Wings are economical and a fun finger food for family meals or parties. They can be cooked in a wide variety of ways including barbecuing or baking in the oven. Regardless of method, a hearty sauce or strong dry rub is always a great way of adding flavour.

Drumsticks +

The drumstick is dark meat and makes up the lower part of the leg below the thigh. You can find drumsticks in various sizes from finger food size to go along with wings, to larger drumsticks for family meals. The dark meat of drumsticks makes them a great choice for searing on the grill or in the oven because the skin will quickly crisp over to lock in juices and flavour. The higher fat content also helps keep the meat moist.

Thighs +

Thighs are flavourful and budget friendly. The thigh is the upper part of the leg and is also considered dark meat. They are extremely versatile and can work well in almost any recipe that calls for chicken. Thighs are also available boneless, so they can be flattened to use as cutlets, sliced in casseroles, or cut into chunks for kebabs.

Poultry Stock +

Homemade poultry stock is easy to prepare, economical and can be stored for several months in your freezer. It is made from slowly simmering water, a variety of vegetables, herbs and the carcass, bones and meat of any roasted poultry. Add the giblets and neck for a flavourful stock that is tastier and less salty than stock cubes.

Poultry Handling & Storage Tips:

• Keep raw poultry cold since bacteria grows quickly at room temperature
• Fresh poultry can be stored in the refrigerator for one or two days before cooking but should be put in the freezer if being kept longer
• Store raw poultry in a plastic bag or container that will hold any leaking juices
• Thaw frozen poultry in the refrigerator, not at room temperature
• Thaw frozen chicken in the microwave but it must be cooked immediately
• Don’t rinse raw poultry prior to cooking to keep bacteria from splashing around your kitchen
• Wear disposable gloves when handling raw poultry or wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water
• Wash plates, all utensils, cutting boards and countertops well after exposure to raw poultry
• Well-wrapped poultry can be kept in the freezer for up to a year
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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