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A 2017-12-30 NYRB article mentions "blue chickens sold in state grocery stores". An anecdote about life in the Soviet Union also mentions that "[b]lue chickens would sometimes be sold outside" the "regular small 'grocery stores.'"

Why would chickens be blue? Was it due to some sort of chemical treatment?


For the benefit of those who think that by "blue" chickens they're referring to chickens with a few feathers that might at a stretch be considered blue, here is the fuller quote from the NYRB article:

Nor would the private markets sell mayonnaise. They’d sell everything else—poultry birds proudly displaying curly yellow fat in their cavities, as if in reproach to the bony and blue chickens sold in state grocery stores.

I imagine that these chickens were plucked in order for one to tell that they had "curly yellow fat" or were "bony".

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  • Just do a Google image search on "chicken breeds". For example: 1 and 2 and 3. Jan 28, 2018 at 6:37
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    @PieterGeerkens: I would have thought that by "blue chickens", they are referring to plucked "blue chickens". Not chickens with a few feathers that might at a long stretch be described as "blue".
    – user3521
    Jan 28, 2018 at 6:52
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    I used to work for the Chicken Farmers Marketing Board here, so I know that there are more than 96 breeds of chicken still raised for food today, around the world, In more colours than you can imagine. They used to publish a poster picturing several dozen of the most colourful. So don't go assuming there is no such thing as a "blue chicken". Carrots used to be purple until the Dutch discovered that they could breed one to celebrate the House of Orange. Jan 28, 2018 at 7:02

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If a chicken doesn't have much fat, its flesh takes on a bluish-white tinge:

Raw poultry can vary from a bluish-white to yellow. All of these colors are normal and are a direct result of breed, exercise, age, and/or diet. Younger poultry has less fat under the skin, which can cause the bluish cast.

So the chickens sold in state grocery stores were quite lean, in opposition to the chickens with "proud displays [of] curly yellow fat" mentioned in the NYRB quotes.

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I do remember that plucked chickens sold in Romania in the '80s had a bluish tinge. Had to do with blood color (like the veins inside the back of your hand) and lack of fat not with skin or feather color.

They were also small, bony (insufficient food) and hard to find (as in hours long waiting line in the store).

Most frequent chicken in the store was without breast or legs - basically good only for soup.

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    Could you add a few more details about anything else you remember?
    – user3521
    Jan 28, 2018 at 9:55
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I am not a chicken expert, but just as with other animals or with human, pigmentation may affect not only hair/fur/feather, but skin, too. For example, dogs and pigs generally have big patches of pigmented skin often under their darker fur.

That being said with some googling you can find chickens with eg. black skin (some black chicken from China called Silkie Chicken: wikipage of Silkie ). Blue (or bluish gray ) skin can easily be some local variation of this chicken or a similarly colored breed.

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    You might find this poster fun. It shows 40 breeds, but the one on the wall at Chicken Farmers of Ontario showed 72 different breeds. Jun 21, 2019 at 22:39

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