Here's to your health
Published:  12 October, 2006

Black chicken may soon be the new health-food craze after tests by Chinese scientists showed there is a biochemical explanation for its 1,000-year-old reputation as a phenomenon of traditional Chinese medicine.

Black-Bone Silky Fowl has soft snow-white feathers with black skin, meat and bones and is said to taste excellent. Dr Mingyong Xie and Dr Ting-gang Tian, from the food science department of Nanchang University, found black chicken contains twice the amount of a substance called carnosine than ordinary breeds such as White Plymouth Rocks. Carnosine is known in the West as an anti-oxidant and is taken as a dietary supplement.

Black chicken has been used in China for centuries as a "folk invigorant... used to reinforce body immunity and protect from emaciation and feebleness," said Tian, who added that it is used in China to treat diabetes, anaemia, menstrual cramps and post-natal disorders.

Poultry is known as a source of carnosine but previously no tests had been done to compare levels between different varieties. The researchers presented their findings at the American Chemical Society's national meeting in San Francisco earlier this month.

12 September, found Black-Bone Silky Fowl has muscle comprising 0.45% carnosine - twice the levels of White Plymouth Rocks, which has muscle comprising 0.22% carnosine.

Dr Tian said: "According to other reports about the content of carnosine in other food, we are sure that Black-Bone Silky Fowl is one of the richest sources of carnosine, and it's easy to get."

Chinese farmers export only limited quantities of black chicken, which mainly goes to Asia and Japan, said Dr Tian. He hopes the research might increase the popularity of the meat worldwide and put black chicken on the menu of fast-food restaurants and in the home.

Dr Tian said: "The taste of Black-Bone Silky Fowl is usually better than other kinds of chicken, but its unusual colour ? black meat ? make some people hesitate to eat."