Maple Leaf Foodservice

Time to Explore the Dark Side

When it comes to chicken, do you prefer white meat or dark meat? Most North Americans have been convinced that white meat is the healthier choice, but dark meat has some amazing nutritional benefits too! It’s time to embrace dark meat for its nourishing value, succulence and culinary versatility.


Why is it dark?

Most chickens don’t fly, but they do move around using their legs and thighs. This pattern of movement preserves muscles in their wings and breasts, which remain white. At the same time, the high movement of their thighs and legs causes them to turn a darker shade due to myoglobin, the protein that provides muscles with the oxygen they need during movement. It’s myoglobin that gives dark meat its characteristic reddish colour. So, it’s pretty simple, really: dark meat is caused by increased muscle movement because chicken walk rather than fly, while white meat is the result of less movement.


Dark versus. white meat: nutrition comparison

Does all of that movement make any difference in the nutritional value of the meat? It does! White meat, such as chicken breast, is heralded for being high in protein and low in fat. Dark meat has different characteristics, with a bit less protein and more fat – but more iron and zinc. Here’s how they compare:

Chicken breast, meat only, roasted (100 g)

Dark chicken meat, meat only, roasted (100 g)

Calories 165 kcal 205 kcal
Protein 31 g 27 g
Carbohydrates 0 g 0 g
Fat 3.5 g 9.7 g
Iron 1.01 mg 1.33 mg
Zinc 1 mg 2.8 mg
Niacin 13.7 mg 6.5 mg
Vitamin B6 0.6 mg 0.4 mg
Vitamin B12 0.3 ug 0.3 ug


Although dark meat does contain a bit more fat than white meat, it’s not a sizeable difference – and it’s this extra fat that gives thighs and legs their juiciness. It’s important to note that not all of the fat in dark meat is saturated fat. In fact, chicken thighs and legs contain more of the healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats than saturated fat!

Fat comparison:

Chicken breast, meat only, roasted (100 g)

Dark chicken meat, meat only, roasted (100 g)

Saturated (g) 1.00 2.66
Monounsaturated (g) 1.24 3.56
Polyunsaturated (g) 0.77 2.26


Other nutrients in dark meat

Iron and zinc are more abundant in dark meat than white meat. Iron is important for transporting oxygen throughout the body, and is a vital part of red blood cells. Zinc is supports immunity, normal growth, wound healing and helps maintain your sense of taste and smell.

Dark meat is also a good source of taurine, a nutrient that may help with blood pressure regulation, healthy nerve function, fatty acid breakdown and reducing inflammation. A 2013 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition linked diets high in taurine with a lower risk of coronary heart disease among people with high cholesterol. The researchers said that taurine also might help protect against diabetes and high blood pressure. So dark meat has definite health benefits!


A chef’s choice

Dark meat also has a richer flavour and more succulent texture, likely because of the higher fat content. It stays juicy and moist when cooked, while white meat can often be dry. Cooking dark meat on the bone keeps it moist and unctuous during roasting, grilling or barbequing. While white meat like chicken breasts have less fat, many cooks compensate for its comparative dryness by adding oil, mayonnaise or gravy – but these condiments add more fat than dark meat contains! If it’s moistness you’re after, it makes more sense to start with dark meat. Chicken thighs and legs are a blank canvas for a variety of sauces and rubs, notably barbecue and a variety of aromatic spices herbs. Explore dark meat!

Chicken thighs and legs are a blank canvas for a variety of sauces and rubs, notably barbecue, and a variety of aromatic spices herbs. Explore dark meat! Use Maple Leaf Chicken Thighs to make:

Creamy Dijon Chicken with Mushrooms

Lemon Chicken Scaloppini with Spinach


Look at the dark meat options that Maple Leaf has to offer!

Premium Canadian farm-raised chicken thighs, legs and drumsticks are dark meat at its finest! These premium cuts contain no added salt, are gluten-free, contain no allergens, and have no added or pumped ingredients. The only ingredient is chicken! Raised and processed in Ontario, they come in five varieties, four of which are in the IQF format. And all convenient 5kg pack size.

If you are a CPS member, you will be pleased to know that Maple Leaf is now the Preferred Supplier of IQF and Fresh Poultry (Fresh is available in Ontario and Quebec only) with new pricing that you must check out! Most varieties are listed with Sysco nationally. GFS Ontario lists the Boneless Skinless IQF Chicken Thigh (Code: 1078100)



Maple Leaf Code


Schneiders Boneless Skinless Chicken Thigh FROZEN



Schneiders Bone-In Chicken Thigh IQF



Schneiders Bone-In Chicken Legs No Back IQF



Schneiders Back Attached Chicken Legs IQF



Schneiders Chicken Drumsticks IQF




CanFarmRaised Logo Black

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