Black Asian Chickens Have No White Meat

When Ayam Cemani chicken breeders say their birds have dark meat, they mean it. The native Indonesian breed is black to the bone-including all the meat, organs and even their bone marrow. But, at $199/chick, you won't find many on the dinner table just yet.

Jenny Taylor is farm manager for Greenfire Farms, Midway, Fla., which raises a variety of unusual and rare poultry breeds. She says the breed is costly because of the red tape and expense importing them. The all-black chickens come from a 500-year-old Asian breed. Because of an import ban from that region, North American breeders such as Greenfire Farms import from certified breeders in EU countries.

"Despite their hypnotic, otherworldly beauty, Ayam Cemani are usually hardy, low maintenance, and by disposition easy to handle," Taylor says. "We were asked by New York magazine to supply an Ayam Cemani model for their holiday gifts issue, and after we flew him to New York, our rooster patiently allowed himself to be draped with million-dollar jewelry and trussed with a red ribbon while he was photographed under bright lights."

The chickens do well in confinement or backyard runs for owners from Maine to Florida, she adds. They thrive on 16 percent layer pellets and have the same water and housing requirements as other chickens.

Medium size with a narrow frame and small breast, they are more for showmanship than meat. They also produce 80 cream-colored eggs each year, which can be hatched and sold.

Though Greenfire Farms only breeds the blackest birds, they can't guarantee that all offspring will have the same amount of black pigment.

Taylor notes she has never dressed an Ayam Cemani, but when a coyote killed one, she cut the chicken open. Everything was black, she says, but adds it's a myth that the blood and feces are also black.

In the future, however, the black chickens may be dressed and served at some high-end restaurants.

"A lot of people are interested in them for their culinary value," Taylor says.

For poultry enthusiasts interested in unusual birds, she notes that Greenfire Farms has another black breed. The Swedish Black Hen is more adopted for colder climates and has more red in the wattles, but is also black to the bone. Chicks sell for $99/each and adult pairs sell for $700.

For details about them and other varieties raised at the "boutique hatchery," check out their website.

Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Greenfire Farms, P.O. Box 676, Midway, Fla. 32343 (ph 850 570-3679;