Here’s What Causes Red Spots on Chicken Breasts or Thighs

If you buy chicken frequently, you might wonder about those red spots commonly seen on breasts and thighs. These red spots are also called blood spots because they are caused by the accumulation of blood. …

raw chicken thighs with lettuce on a cutting board

If you buy chicken frequently, you might wonder about those red spots commonly seen on breasts and thighs.

These red spots are also called blood spots because they are caused by the accumulation of blood. They are usually caused by improper processing methods, which result in inadequate draining of blood from the chicken.

Are there any causes besides these, and what can you do to remove the spots? Find out more below!

What Are the Red Spots on My Raw Chicken?

Red spots in chicken are often called blood spots. They can be found in any part of the chicken, but are usually found in the meatier parts, such as the thighs, legs, wings, and breasts. They are caused by improper handling and draining of the chicken.

When it comes to meat, especially raw meat, color is an important indicator of quality. Bright-colored meat is usually best. Raw chicken is normally bluish-white to yellow. The chicken’s breed, age, diet, and amount of exercise can affect the color of the meat. 

A younger chicken is low in fat underneath the skin, which results in a bluish tint. Yellowish meat can be caused by what the chicken is feeding on. For example, a diet high in marigolds can result in a yellow tint (source: USDA).

two raw chicken breast on a cutting board ready for cooking

Blood spots can be a sign of poor conditions, specifically when it comes to the slaughtering process of the chickens. Blood spots appear where the main blood vessels are severed (source: New Zealand Veterinary Journal). 

They can also be due to the chicken being improperly bled out. This can be caused by improper cuts, positioning, stunning, and other factors.

If the chicken carcass is inefficiently bled, this can lead to blood being held in the meat, which might induce the growth of spoilage microbes and be a carrier for foodborne illness.

Moreover, blood can also cause hemoglobin retention in the meat. Hemoglobin promotes lipid oxidation, which in turn, causes oxidative spoilage through storage and cooking (source: Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences).

However, there is no need to be alarmed if you find red spots on your fresh chicken meat. The blood can be removed, and any threat can be eliminated by cooking the chicken to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F (73.9 °C) (source: USDA).

Undercooked chicken can cause Salmonellosis and other foodborne diseases, so be sure to heat the chicken fully.

Is It Safe to Eat Chicken with Red or Blood Spots?

It is safe to eat chicken with red spots, as long as you cook it thoroughly. However, there are a few ways to get rid of the spots.

One way is to simply remove part of the chicken where the blood spots are.

You can also remove the spots by soaking the chicken in cold water for a few minutes to eliminate red spots on the surface. Or you can blanch the chicken in boiling water until the blood spots drain out of the meat.

raw chicken thighs with lettuce on a cutting board

Blood spots are more likely to be found in chickens that are sold directly by the butcher or in local meat markets, or those that are butchered at home. Raw chicken meat sold in the grocery store has usually been checked before making it to the fridge or freezer.

Just remember, as long as the chicken is thoroughly cooked, or at least cooked to its minimum safe temperature of 165 °F (73.9 °C), it should be safe (source: USDA).

Do The Red Spots on Chicken Mean Lice?

There is no current literature on chicken lice or mites causing red spots on chicken meat, although lice can cause red spots on the skin of a live chicken. Other things that can lead to red spots on a live chicken are diseases caused by viruses or bacteria.

In 2021, a photo posted on a social media platform showed chicken thighs in clear packaging with red spots and claimed they were due to lice.

The photo was taken in Drayton Valley, Alberta, Canada, and the chicken thighs were not sold in the U.S. A representative of the chicken production company confirmed that the red spots were blood spots, which are common and harmless.

There’s no need to worry about red spots or blood spots on raw chicken meat, but do make sure to cook your chicken thoroughly!