Do you eat the chicken butt? Do you even know what it is? You may be familiar with the children’s rhyme/joke that has been featured on popular TV shows like The Family Guy, Chris Rock’s Everybody Hates Chris, and even the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. But I’ll bet you never gave much thought to what part of the bird is actually being talked about, much less to whether it’s edible!
Guess what? Chicken butt is edible, and to some people it’s a real delicacy!
What is the Chicken Butt?
So what exactly is a chicken butt? There are actually two schools of thought about this. The first says that the word “butt” comes from the French word for barrel, “botte”. It’s not a specific part of the chicken, but rather a reference to the fact that butchers used to pack less desirable pieces of the chicken, like the shoulder, in a barrel. Eventually, the word for the barrel came to be used when speaking of these pieces of the chicken as well.
Other people use the expression “chicken butt” to mean the little heart-shaped flap at the back end of the chicken, where the tail feathers would be attached. The scientific name is “pygostyle,” a Greek word that refers to the bones at that tail end of a bird. Other popular names for this part of a bird include the “parson’s nose” or “pope’s nose,” presumably because clergy members were thought of as having their noses in the air the same way a chicken carries its tail feathers.
Chicken Butt Considered a Delicacy
The chicken butt was always discarded in my mother’s house, and I had never considered it a terribly edible piece of meat because of that. It’s tough and fatty, and I just never cared for either its texture or its taste. To my mind, there are far nicer pieces of meat on a chicken to choose from!
So I was surprised the first time I ate a roasted chicken with my husband, and he asked if I wanted to eat the “pope’s nose.” At first, I had no idea what part of the bird he was talking about. When he pointed it out, I couldn’t understand why he’s want to eat the chicken butt. He explained that he had been raised to think of it as a delicacy. And as there was only one on a chicken, it was something of a privilege to be served the pope’s nose.
It turns out that the chicken butt is also considered a delicacy in some parts of Africa, Asia, and Oceania. In fact, there is a taboo among the Abaluhya people of Kenya, whose women are forbidden from eating both the chicken butt and its gizzard. These choice cuts of chicken are reserved for the man of the house, and women who eat them can face severe penalties.
Do you think the chicken butt deserve such celebrity status? Do you eat the pygostyle of other birds, like turkey? What is the colloquial name your family uses when referring to this part of a chicken? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!