All About Poultry

roasted chicken and vegetables on a platter

Poultry offers a lot of taste, value, variety and nutrition. Here we’ll explain why poultry is a nutritious choice and how it can be safely enjoyed as part of healthy eating.

What is poultry? 

Poultry is a category of farm birds, including chicken, turkey, duck, ostrich and quail. Edible poultry products include the meat from these animals as well as their eggs. Because poultry can be prepared and cooked in so many ways, it is a popular food choice for Canadians.

Poultry is nutritious

Poultry is lean (low in fat), and a good source of protein, vitamin B6, iron and zinc.

Choose leaner varieties of meat and poultry. Remove the skin off poultry products and choose healthy preparation methods like roasting, broiling or braising to help keep the amount of fat low.

Canada’s Food Guide recommends 2-3 servings of Meat and Alternatives every day for adults. Poultry is a good choice to help you meet this recommendation.

Buying local 

Check the label on poultry to know if it’s from a farm in Ontario. You can also ask the butcher or store manager. When you buy local food, you support farmers so they can keep producing high quality, affordable food we can all enjoy.

Poultry is safe to eat

Recently there has been some concern with the avian flu virus or “bird flu”. While this virus spreads easily among poultry flocks, the virus is not as easily transferred from birds to humans. There is no evidence to suggest that eating thoroughly cooked poultry and its products could transmit the avian flu to humans. Proper handling, storage and preparation of poultry will limit potential risks of this virus. The Canadian government monitors the safety of poultry products.

Keep food safety in mind: From buying and preparing poultry

There are two types of bacteria commonly associated with raw poultry: Salmonella and Campylobacter. Reduce the risk of foodborne illness with proper handling, storing, preparation and cooking of poultry. Follow these quick and easy tips to put food safety first:

Handling poultry (at the grocery store)

  • Make sure raw poultry is securely packaged and no juices are leaking. Place raw poultry in a separate spot in your shopping cart and do not bag it with other foods at the check out.

Storing poultry

  • Put poultry in the fridge or freezer as soon as possible to reduce the number of bacteria that can grow in a warmer environment.
  • Store poultry with other raw meat at the bottom of the refrigerator away from other foods.
  • Raw poultry should only be stored for 2-3 days. Freeze cut-up pieces of poultry for 6 months and whole birds for up to 1 year if you are not going to consume it within this time. Remember to mark the date that you put the poultry in the freezer.

Thawing poultry

  • Do not thaw poultry at room temperature. It is safest to thaw poultry in the refrigerator. Allow 24 hours of defrosting time for each 2.5 kg (5 pounds) of bird.
  • If you thaw poultry in the microwave, cook the food immediately once it has thawed.
  • If you thaw raw poultry under running water, keep it in its original packaging and make sure the water is kept cold. Clean sinks and other kitchen surfaces right after thawing.

Preparing and cooking poultry

  • Do not rinse raw poultry as this can spread bacteria to you and your kitchen surfaces.
  • Cook ground poultry and rolls thoroughly to the centre.
  • Poultry is cooked when the leg of a whole bird removes easily, when cuts of poultry have no pink showing, and when juices run clear (there should be no blood).
  • As with all meat products, poultry should be prepared at the proper temperature. Never eat raw or undercooked poultry. Use this chart below to identify safe internal temperatures for poultry.


Cooking Temperature

Whole birds

 85ºC (185ºF)

Ground poultry

Poultry parts


Chicken nuggets

Other poultry products

 74ºC (165ºF)

*Use a food thermometer to tell you when your dish is cooked to the right temperature.

Bacteria can grow quickly in the danger zone between 4°C to 60°C (40°F to 140°F) so keep hot foods at or above 60ºC (140°F).

Cooking with Poultry

Poultry makes great leftovers. Follow these tips to make sure you can enjoy leftovers safely:

  • Cut and de-bone meat from large cooked birds.
  • If you are not going to remove meat from the carcass, be sure to refrigerate the cooked bird quickly.
  • Refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible in small containers for quick cooling.
  • Use refrigerated leftovers as soon as possible or up to 3-4 days.

Try some of these healthy recipes for a delicious way to incorporate poultry into your diet:

Chicken in Mexican Mole Sauce

Mango Chicken Wraps

Chicken Bulgur Salad

Cranberry-Glazed Turkey Breast Cutlets, Cookspiration

Thai Turkey Stir-Fry, Dietitians of Canada

Want to know more?

Poultry Facts, Health Canada

Last Update – February 26, 2019

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