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Nutrient Composition of Australian Chicken

Ann Hunt, Janine Lewis, Greg Milligan and Catherine Deeps
Australia New Zealand Food Authority, ACT.
Presented by Ann Hunt at The Eleventh Australian Poultry & Feed Convention, October 1999

        Gross Composition, Cooking and Preparation
                Raw and Casseroling
                Stir Fry
Results and Discussion
        Fat and Cholesterol


This presentation provides up to date information of the nutritional composition of Australian chicken. The Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA), in association with the Australian Chicken Meat Federation Inc, undertook a joint collaboration to extend and update the nutrient composition of Australian chicken.

The analytical work for this project was performed by the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories and the project was funded by a grant from the Chicken Meat Committee of the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation.

ANZFA is responsible for producing and updating the Australian reference on the nutrient composition of Australian foods. This national reference is available as published food tables (Composition of Foods, Australia) and as computer databases (Lewis et al, 1995). To date, data for up to 75 nutrients have been published on 12 chicken samples from analyses conducted during the 1980s.

It was considered timely to review and extend the current data on chicken for the following reasons:

The data published in the food tables were commissioned more than 15 years ago,
Only a limited number of chicken cuts had been sampled, namely breast, drumstick and whole chicken and this does not fully reflect current consumption patterns, and
Data is required on nutrients not previously analysed, such as the vitamin folate.
Poultry consumption in Australia has risen considerably over the last few decades, increasing from 20.0 kg per person per year in 1982-83 to 30.5 kg per person per year in 1997-98. Of this 30.5 kg, 95% is chicken meat and this represents nearly a third of the total meat eaten in Australia. It is estimated that poultry meat consumption will surpass beef consumption in 2001-02 (Toyne 1999). The rise in popularity of chicken consumption corresponds to an increase in its affordability and availability, and to the growing awareness of its nutritional value, convenience and versatility.

Since 1982-83 the Australian chicken meat industry has moved from a purely domestic bred genetic stock to imported stock. The two international breeds, Ross and Cobb, now account for about 70% of all birds processed in this country. Inghams Enterprises and Steggles Limited are the two major integrated chicken meat companies in Australia and their combined production is around two thirds of the Australian total. It was considered that combined samples from Inghams and Steggles would provide a fair representation of the chicken meat available in Australia.



Ten fresh, chilled, size 15 birds; 20 chicken wings; and 2.5 kg of chicken breast (filleted with the skin removed) were provided equally by Inghams Enterprises and Steggles Limited. The additional wings were provided, as the quantity of lean meat for raw and casseroled analysis was insufficient for the analysis required. The chicken breasts were provided with the skin removed for stir-frying.

Gross Composition, Cooking and Preparation


Ten birds were selected for baking, comprising five from Inghams and five from Steggles. The chickens were placed on a rack over a baking dish containing 2 cm of water and cooked at 180° C until the juices ran clear. After baking, the chickens were cooled, weighed and cut into breast, wing, drumstick and thigh portions, weighed again and then dissected into lean meat, separable fat, skin and inedible components. Each component was then weighed. Composite samples of lean tissue were prepared from each chicken portion, whereas the skin and separable fat from all the chicken portions were pooled and composite samples for each were prepared. These samples were then analysed.

Raw and casseroling

The remaining ten birds were each cut in half, with one half of each bird reserved for raw gross composition and analysis, and the other half used for casseroling. The ten half chickens for casseroling were first dissected into breast, wing, drumstick and thigh portions. They were then browned in a nonstick frypan before being cooked in a casserole dish containing 250 ml of water for each kilo of chicken. The casseroling was done at 180°C for a total of 45 minutes.

In a similar procedure to the whole dissected baked chicken, the subsequent portions of raw and casseroled chicken pieces were dissected into their component parts, weighed and pooled to form composite samples for analysis.

Stir Fry

The skinless raw breast fillets were cut into 2.5cm cubes and cooked in a hot nonstick frypan without added cooking oil or fat. The cubes were added in small batches, sealed and cooked until white throughout with no trace of pink juice. The cooked meat was then cooled and a composite sample then prepared for analysis.

Nutrients were analysed as detailed in Table 1. Analytical and quality assurance procedures for this project are available from ANZFA.

Table 1. Nutrients analysed in the Chicken Analytical Program










Total nitrogen (protein)




Vitamin A (retinol)


Fatty acid profile

Vitamin E (a -tocopherol)









Results and Discussion

Details of the gross composition data are presented in Table 2.

Table 2. Gross composition of chicken

  Lean Meat % Fat % Skin % Inedible % Dissection loss %
Chicken Breast          
Raw 64 5 9 20 2
Baked 66 2 7 23 2
Casseroled 72 1 6 20 1
Chicken Wing          
Raw 34 0 23 40 4
Baked 38 1 14 44 3
Casseroled 39 1 14 45 2
Chicken Drumstick          
Raw 57 1 8 31 2
Baked 52 1 8 36 3
Casseroled 51 1 7 39 2
Chicken Thigh          
Raw 47 10 11 29 3
Baked 52 3 9 33 3
Casseroled 54 2 10 32 2
Whole Chicken          
Raw 54 5 11 27 2
Baked 57 2 8 30 3
Casseroled 59 1 8 30 2

Table 3 and 4 (available from ACMF office) present results of nutrient analyses for single component chicken parts, such as lean only, skin only and separable fat. In addition, nutrient profiles have been constructed using gross composition data for complete chicken cuts using the relative proportions of the lean, separable fat and skin components.

To assess the nutritional value of the nutrients present in chicken, the following classifications have been used:

Excellent source: more than 15% of the adult Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) per serve,
Good source: greater than 10%, up to and including 15% of the RDI per serve, and
Moderate source: greater than 5%, up to and including 10% of the RDI per serve.
Results from the 1995 National Nutrition Survey indicated that a representative serve of chicken is 100g of baked chicken.


A 100g serving of baked chicken provides 859 kJ of energy, which is 9% of the RDI for women (19-54 years) and 8% of the RDI for men (16-64 years). Chicken is a nutrient dense food in that many nutrients, including protein, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, riboflavin and niacin, contribute more to their respective RDIs than the percentage contribution from energy.

The energy content of chicken is derived solely from the protein and fat components. A positive correlation exists with the fat and energy content such that as the fat content increases there is a corresponding rise in energy.


Chicken is an excellent source of protein. A typical 100g serving of baked chicken provides 49% of the RDI for men and 60% of the RDI for women.

Fat and Cholesterol

As a general trend, the total fat content recorded in this recent analytical program is lower than previously published. The mean total fat content per cut decreased by 15%. The most likely explanation for this is the change in breeding stock that has occurred since the former samples were analysed.

In this recent analytical program, the total fat content in the cooked chicken portions ranged from 0.9g to 17.0g /100g edible portion (e.p.). Stir-fried skinless breast fillets had the lowest fat content (0.9g/100g e.p.) and casseroled chicken wings had the highest fat content (17.0g/100g e.p.). Generally, the breast portions had the lowest fat content, followed by the thigh portions and then the drumsticks, with chicken wings having the highest fat content.

Removing the skin from the chicken portion considerably lowered the overall fat content. Little difference was noted in the fat content when comparing the equivalent baked and casseroled chicken cuts.

The proportions of individual fatty acids found in lean chicken meat, separable fat and skin formed a consistent pattern for both cooked and uncooked samples. The predominant type of fat in chicken is monounsaturated with almost half of the total fatty acids being monounsaturated. Saturated fatty acids form the next largest category and polyunsaturated fatty acids the smallest. The fatty acid profile present in the chicken is indicative of the fatty acid profile of the feed.

As a general trend, the cholesterol content increased in the chicken portion as the fat content increased. The cholesterol content ranged from 62mg to 165mg/100g e.p. with breast portions having the lowest cholesterol levels, followed by the thigh portions, then the drumsticks with chicken wings having the highest cholesterol levels.


Moisture loss occurred unevenly among the different chicken portions, with smaller portions producing the greatest percentage moisture loss. The baked samples tended to have a higher percentage moisture loss when compared with casseroled samples.

Due to the moisture loss, the concentration of many of the nutrients increased during cooking, despite partial destruction of certain heat labile nutrients and nutrient loss in the drained juices.


A 100g serving of baked chicken is an excellent source of niacin equivalents, providing more than 100% of the RDI for women and 71% of the RDI for men. Chicken is also a good source of riboflavin and a moderate source of vitamin E.

A correlation exists between the amount of fat present in the chicken portions and the concentration of fat-soluble vitamins; as the fat content increases in the tissues there is a corresponding rise in fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamins A and E (measured as retinol and a -tocopherol) are present in larger concentrations in the skin and separable fat than in the lean tissue.

In this recent analysis, the vitamin folate was measured for the first time. Small amounts of folate were detected in the lean raw components of the chicken, with the thigh portion containing the largest amount (14µg folate/100g e.p.).


Chicken contains significant quantities of many minerals, including iron, zinc, phosphorus and magnesium. A 100g serving of baked chicken is a good source of zinc and magnesium and a moderate source of iron for both men and women. This amount of baked chicken is also an excellent source of phosphorus providing 26% of the RDI for both men and women.

Minerals are more highly concentrated in the lean tissue than in the fat and skin. The drumstick and thigh portions also contain larger amounts of iron and zinc than in the breast and wing portions.


This analytical program has updated and extended the range of nutrients currently available for the composition of Australian chicken. For the first time, data are available on the folate and vitamin E content of chicken. There has been an increase in the number of chicken cuts analysed with more detail concerning the gross composition of each cut. Also, information is available on an expanded range of cooking methods. This information will be included in future ANZFA food composition publications.

This project has highlighted the nutritional value of many of the nutrients present in chicken. It is an excellent source of protein, niacin and phosphorus, a good source of zinc, magnesium and riboflavin and a moderate source of vitamin E and iron. There has been an overall decrease in the total fat content of chicken when compared with previously published Australian data. The most likely explanation for this is the change in breeding stock that has occurred over the last fifteen years.

As poultry consumption increases, as is predicted, there will be a growing importance of the nutritional contribution from chicken to the overall diet of Australians.



Australia New Zealand Food Authority (1990-1995) Composition of Foods, Australia.

Volumes 1-7. Canberra: AGPS.

Lewis J, Hunt A & Milligan G. (1995) NUTTAB95. Canberra: National Food Authority.

Toyne, C., deJager, N. & O’Rourke, C. (1999) Meat. Outlook to 2003-04. Australian Commodities-Forecasts and Issues. 6:55-68; ABARE, Canberra.

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