What Are Chicken Paws?

You may discover packages of poultry parts called chicken paws in your supermarket. Many people may be naturally confused by this, because the suggestion of a chickens with paws is obviously nonsensical. After all, we know that animals with paws normally have four feet, which we know that chicken do not. So, what’s going on here?  What are chicken paws?

Chicken Paws are popular in many countries. They mostly contain connective tissue, cartilage, skin, tendons, and bones. They are nutritious and deliver essential vitamins.

What’s the Difference Between Chicken Paws and Chicken Feet?

To get to the bottom of the mystery of chicken paws, we just need to understand those “paws” differ, if they do, from chicken feet. If they’re the same thing, then why the two names? If they’re two different things, then in terms of chicken paws vs chicken feet, why should anyone prefer one over the other? Let’s break it all down here and solve this mystery:

The USDA does distinguish between chicken paws and chicken feet. In fact, the federal government has detailed the difference, along with a wealth of information laid out in an expansive USDA publication on the chicken paw economy that the average U.S. American is probably unaware of.

To spare you the research, the thing to know is that reduced to the simplest terms, the distinction comes down to this:

  • Chicken Feet — refers to the feet and the leg shank (lower part of the leg).
  • Chicken Paws — refers to the feet only, cut and separated from the leg at the ankle.

So, chicken paws are chicken feet without the lower leg attached.

As it turns out, the bulk of larger premium-quality chicken paws are served in fine restaurants, whereas the smaller paws (as well as wing tips and other lesser quality parts), are sold through wholesale markets and ultimately used in food processing plants to make a whole range of processed food products.

Are Chicken Paws Good to Eat?

Chicken paws primarily consist of skin, bone, and connective tissues such as cartilage and tendons. They’re actually very nutritious, containing healthy vitamins and minerals, and, they’re a rich source of gelatinous collagen.

Due to these nutrient densities in chicken paws / feet, in some countries they are traditionally considered beneficial for infants’ diets, to promote development of healthy bones, joints, nails, and skin.

Where Do People Eat Chicken Paws?

It may surprise you to learn that are many countries where eating chicken paws is common. With the outer layer of tough skin removed, the majority of the edible parts of the chicken feet consist of tendons and skin, without any muscle tissue. That causes chicken feet to have their own unique texture that is completely different from any other part of the chicken meat.

Because they’re mostly skin, chicken feet have that aforementioned gelatinous texture. In short, chicken paws are decidedly good to eat. In fact, note these amazingly delectable-sounding chicken feet / paw dishes served as traditional entrees, snacks, and even delicacies in travel destinations known for their exotic and scrumptious cuisine:

  • China — Marinated chicken feet are popular as a bar snack food. They’re often simmered using soy sauce, garlic, clove, Sichuanese peppercorn, star anise, chili flakes and even cinnamon or ginger. The feet are sometimes steamed and deep fried, to puff them up, then simmered in sauce of fermented black beans and sugar.
  • Thailand — Chicken feet are used in a number of Thai dishes. For example, green Thai chicken curry over rice noodles is made using chicken feet.
  • Indonesia — Chicken feet, called ceker, are popular as a delicacy in Java and other areas. Spices used in dishes featuring chicken feet include garlic, ginger, ground shallot, galangal, turmeric, lemongrass, candlenut, and bayleaf. Dishes can include rice or noodles, cabbage, potatoes, carrots), and celery. They may be further seasoned to taste with lime, black pepper, soy, and/or sambal. Kripik ceker, translated as “chicken feet crackers” is also popular as a snack.
  • Malaysia — In some areas, traditional restaurants serve chicken feet cooked with curry, with a side dish of roti canai. In other areas, chicken feet are boiled in until bones are soft and made into a spiced soup with vegetables, or the feet may simply be deep fried using palm oil.
  • Mexico — Chicken feet are popular in main dishes with vegetables and rice, served along with the breast, legs, and other chicken parts. Mole sauce is sometimes used to season the feet. Chicken feet are also frequently used in soups and stews.
  • Jamaica — Chicken feet are sometimes stewed or curried and featured as the main course in meals. Chicken foot soup is another Jamaican specialty. It contains potatoes, yams, dumplings, and green bananas, and features special spices.
  • Trinidad — Chicken feet are boiled in seasoned water and then marinated with onions, peppers, cucumbers, and green seasoning, and served as a popular party dish known as “Chicken Foot Souse.”

The above are just a few of the many countries where chicken paws and feet are very common in a wide number of delicious dishes. In the United States, this poultry product has not yet become such a broadly popular dish or snack treat as it has already so long been in countries around the world.

But, there’s good news for U.S. Americans who are ready to try some chicken paws: There are abundant recipes available on the web. So, go ahead! Venture into the unknown, by Googling some delectable-looking recipes for chicken feet or paws.

Search Tip: When searching for paws, enter: chicken “paws” with quotation marks around just the word “paws” for best results from the search engine.

Can You Buy Chicken Paws in the Grocery Store?

In Asian and some eastern European countries, chicken paws are more readily available in regular grocery stores. In China, for example, chicken feet are often salt-baked, perhaps seasoned with chili and rice vinegar, and sold in most supermarkets. They’re often vacuum-packed and ready for eating right out of the package.

However, in the United States, packaged chicken feet are not typically available all the time in supermarkets, as other chicken parts are. But, if you develop a chicken paws snack habit, you may have to become a regular at your local Asian ethnic foods market for a reliably consistent supply.

Global Chicken Paw Trade

Hong Kong was historically the world’s largest hub for shipping chicken feet, reportedly routing from more than 30 countries a total of approximately 420,000 tons of chicken feet valued at around US $230 million in the year 2000 alone.

China is the world’s largest importer of chicken feet. This poultry product is imported from the U.S. and other sources throughout the world for vast consumption in China.

According to an extensive FDA report on U.S. chicken paw production and export, the country’s volume of chicken paw export volume to China and Hong Kong alone was almost 48 percent of the national total of edible frozen chicken parts.

Are You Ready to Try Chicken Paws for Dinner or Snack?

As you can imagine, many of the recipes for chicken paws and chicken feet used around the world are surely delicious. After all, a whole world of chicken feet connoisseurs can’t be wrong. If you have not yet known the joy of munching on some superbly-spiced chicken paws or feet at your favorite bar and grill, or haven’t yet tried to master your own chicken paws dish at home, it may be time to find out what all the fuss over chicken paws is about.

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