Milady sent me for a chicken last night, a whole fryer, so that she could boil it for stock and made dumplings. I always approve of chicken and dumplings, so I went to the store.
When I got out of the Army in 1979, my first job was working in a plant that processed chickens. We slaughtered them by the truck load and my bosses taught me that a proper whole fryer weighs 3.5-4.0 pounds. They insisted that the growers produced a chicken that, when processed, would weigh 3.5 lbs.
Last night, digging through a pile of what Wal-Mart calls fryers, I was stunned to find that the smallest bird there was over five pounds. They had another pile of hens down the aisle, and I guess those were over 8 lbs. Chickens have gotten bigger in the 30 years since I was in the business. Another thing I noticed this morning as we were de-boning the boiled chicken is the absence of dark meat. That bird was white meat from his drumstick to his wishbone. Chickens are changing, and not for the better.
In my mind, the perfect frying chicken weighs about 3.5 lbs and has been allowed to run around, so that the leg and thigh have dark meat. That's not the chicken that the growers are producing these days.