Is bloody chicken safe to eat? (what causes boody chicken)

In this article, we will discuss whether bloody chicken is safe to eat, when is a bloody chicken not safe to eat, what causes a bloody chicken, how to prepare and eat bloody chicken safely and how to prevent chicken from being bloody.

Bloody chicken is often rejected by consumers as it is understood as a sign of being undercooked and consequently of an unsafe meat. However, a bloody chicken may be safe to eat.

Is bloody chicken safe to eat?

Yes, bloody chicken is safe to eat (1), when properly cooked that is, when the chicken has been cooked to an internal temperature of 165 °F (74 °C) (2) and when the chicken does not show any signs of spoilage, such as off-odours (3).

The bloody aspect of the frozen or cooked chicken, which is characterised by the darkening of the bone and the muscle tissue adjacent to the bone and possible leakage of liquids occurs in certain circumstances and does not indicate spoilage (1).

Is a bloody chicken undercooked?

No, a bloody chicken is not necessarily undercooked. An undercooked chicken is monitored by the internal temperature of the meat which makes it unsafe to eat (2, 4).

Although the European Food Information Council (EUFIC) advises cooking poultry till no red or pink meat is visible and no more liquid is present, there is no scientific evidence for this recommendation (4).

According to studies, the change of the colour of poultry meat from pink to white often occurs when the internal temperature reaches 60 °C (140 °F) with an insufficient reduction of the microbial load (4).

The internal temperature of 60 °C (140 °F) is below the recommended temperature of 74 °C (165 °F) given by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a safety cooking procedure (2). 

What causes a bloody chicken?

A bloody chicken is caused by the bone marrow, which migrates from the bone into the flesh and may occur more frequently in young birds, due to the incomplete calcification of their bones. 

A more porous and soft bone from a young slaughtered bird facilitates the bone marrow to move out to the muscle when the chicken is frozen or cooked (1). Young birds have a more reddish marrow, resulting in a bloody appearance.

Therefore, cooking chicken in their bones results in a darker colour of the meat than when chicken is cooked deboned. The colour of cooked chicken meat does not indicate doneness, as it occurs with beef (4).

When is a bloody chicken not safe to eat?

A bloody chicken is not safe to eat when undercooked or when it has signs of spoilage (2, 3, 4). Undercooked chicken is a chicken cooked to an internal temperature below 165 °F (74 °C).

According to studies, when this internal temperature reaches 70 °C, there is a reduction of 5 log count of the initial microbial load of Salmonella and Campylobacter, two of the main pathogens related to spoilage in poultry (4).

Therefore, when the internal temperature of the chicken does not reach this temperature, there is not enough destruction of pathogens, which makes the chicken unsafe to eat.

How to know if a bloody chicken is spoiled?

The signs that indicate that a bloody chicken is spoiled are:

  • The presence of off-odours and off-flavours, such as sour, rancid, putrid or fermented
  • Formation of slime on the surface of the meat
  • Discolouration of the muscle tissue, such as greenish or greyish pigment

How to prepare and cook chicken safely?

To prepare and cook chicken, choose a fresh product without signs of spoilage. Use a clean cooking space and clean utensils and follow improved hygienic practices, avoiding cross-contamination (3).

Season or marinate the chicken according to personal preferences and choose a cooking method, following the cooking time instructions.

Cooking times for different cooking methods are given by the USDA according to the size and cut of the chicken to ensure proper cooking. 

For instance, while a whole chicken needs 1.5 hours in the oven to be considered fully cooked, boneless breast halves need about 30 minutes (2).

How to prevent a chicken from being bloody?

To prevent a chicken from being bloody, you can debone it before cooking or consider buying deboned cuts (1). The bloody aspect occurs due to the presence of the bone during cooking and by removing the bone chicken will not be bloody.

Another way to prevent a chicken from being bloody is by cooking older slaughtered birds, such as capons and stewing hens. Chicken has different ages when slaughtered, depending on the type of chicken (5).

The ages of the birds are the following (5):

Type of chicken age when slaughtered
Broiler-fryer 7 weeks
Roaster 3 to 5 months
Capons 16 weeks to 8 months
Stewing / Baking hen 10 to 18 months


In this article, we discussed whether a bloody chicken is safe to eat, what causes the chicken to be bloody and how to prevent chicken from being bloody.

Chicken can be a risk when not properly cooked, however, the bloody aspect of a cooked chicken does not indicate that it is unsafe to eat. 

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2.- [cited 2023 Oct 26]. Available from:


Cerveny J, Meyer JD, Hall PA. Microbiological spoilage of meat and poultry products. Compendium of the microbiological spoilage of foods and beverages. 2009:69-86.


Langsrud S, Sørheim O, Skuland SE, Almli VL, Jensen MR, Grøvlen MS, Ueland Ø, Møretrø T. Cooking chicken at home: Common or recommended approaches to judge doneness may not assure sufficient inactivation of pathogens. PLoS ONE. 2020;15(4).


AskUSDA [Internet]. [cited 2023 Oct 26]. Available from: