Many people have one question when they see the hair on their chicken wings: is this normal? The answer is yes, but you can minimize it by following these quick tips. Read on for more information about why your chicken has hairs and how to get rid of them!
Why Do My Chicken Wings Have Hairs?
Over 4,000 feathers and hairs are removed during production. Poultry companies process over 14,000 birds per day. Workers process about 34-45 chickens per minute. Companies are focused on speed, therefore, some of the hairs are left on the chickens, because the ‘pickler’ machines are unable to remove all the hairs.
If you’ve ever looked closely at the chicken you buy at Costco, Sams, or any of your local supermarkets, you have likely noticed small hairs on the chicken wings.
In this article, we’ll discuss why it happens, how chickens are processed, and how to remove the hairs before cooking.
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Are Chicken Wings Supposed To Have Hair On Them?
Chicken wings that have gone through production, should not have hairs on them. According to the Perdue hotline, since chickens have 4,000 – 5,000 feathers on their body, some small ones inevitably get missed during production.
Poultry companies do not hire people to manually inspect the wings to ensure all the hairs are removed, as it would be time-consuming and too expensive. Which would cause the price of poultry to skyrocket.
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The small hairs are safe to consume but can be removed before or after cooking, which we’ll discuss in further detail below.
What Are The Little Hairs On Chicken Wings?
The small hairs are also known as filaments. are the part of the feather that connects to the chicken’s skin. The hairs help regulate a chicken’s temperature.
How Are Hair and Feathers Removed During Processing?
The feathers are removed by a ‘pickler’ machine, which includes hundreds of little rubber “fingers.” Broiler chickens are submerged in a scalding machine aka scalder with a water temperature of 147°F, the hot water makes the process of removing the hairs easier.
The birds are submerged in the hot water. Depending on the type of bird, the will depend on how long it is left in the hot water before removing the feathers.
- Turkeys (16-26 weeks) 90-120 seconds
- Broilers (8 -10 weeks) 60 seconds
- Cornish Game Hens (4 weeks) 40 seconds
- Spent Layers (less than 70 weeks) 90-120 seconds
- Broilers (7 weeks) 45-50 seconds.
The immersion process breaks down the proteins in the skin that holds the feathers. Leaving them in the hot water too long will tear or cook the meat under the skin.
After the immersion process, the chicken is placed into the pickler machine. The machine spins around while the rubber fingers remove the hairs and feathers, which takes about 20 seconds.
They are then removed from the pickler machine and the head and feet are removed. This video walks you through poultry processing using a pickler machine.
How to Take Hair Off Chicken Wings?
If the hair bothers you, it is possible to remove them with tweezers, charring them with a barbecue lighter, creme brulee torch, picking them off with a paper towel.
The hairs can be removed before or after cooking. That said, most will be removed during the cooking process, and most people don’t notice the ones that are not removed.
That said some people prefer removing them before cooking. Keep in mind, it’s impossible to remove every filament on chicken wings.
Here’s how to remove the hairs using several techniques.
Using Rubber Gloves
If the hairs are thicker than pins, you can pull them out using rubber gloves. If you’re cleaning a lot of wings, have a bowl of water near you to dip your hands into in between each pluck.
Invest in Tweezers
Tweezers are not only good for removing eyebrow, nose, or ear hair. They are also good for removing chicken hair and fish bones.
Try soaking the wings in hot water (not scalding) to make the process of plucking easier.
Every household kitchen should have a pair of tweezers that are only used for kitchen purposes. Some people also use needle-nose pliers to remove the filament from fresh-cut or frozen chicken wings.
Use A Torch
Use a creme brulee torch, barbecue lighter, or larger propane torch to singe the small hairs. Pass the torch over one wing at a time, in wide swaths, singeing the entire skin.
I’ve found that using grilling gloves works best for holding the wings, as they will protect you from burns. That said, you never want to hold the fire over the gloves too long, otherwise, you’ll burn your hands.
Warning: Use extreme caution when working with an open flame. Be cautious of your surroundings and never use an open flame around flammable substances.
If you’re using a smaller torch or lighter, you’ll still need to pluck the hairs with a set of tweezers.
Coat the Wings With Oil
Some people have noticed that coating the hairs with olive oil, canola oil, or cooking oil will increase the chances of them getting singed during the cooking process.
Is It Ok to Eat Chicken Hair on Chicken Wings?
While not appetizing to see chicken hair on your cooked wings, the good thing is they are perfectly safe to eat.
On the other hand, large contour feathers can’t be consumed by humans.
The feathers contain a protein called keratin, (structural thiol-rich proteins) which is the same substance found in human hair and fingernails.
This is why birds that suffer from a protein deficiency, will turn to feather pecking and eating the feathers of other birds as a source of protein.
According to Poultry World, some companies are converting the feathers of processed birds into Feather Meal (FM).
It’s normal to see small hairs or bristles sticking on store-bought chicken wings. Most will get singed away, during the cooking process, so it isn’t necessary to remove them beforehand.
That said, not all of them will be removed, regardless of how the wings are cooked. It is safe to eat them, but you can remove them before or after cooking if you prefer.
The next time you spot a hair attached to the wing’s skin, it’s just a filament. It’s completely safe to consume and doesn’t have any flavor, so you won’t notice them when you bite into the wing.
If it grosses you out, then consider buying skinless chicken wings!