Why Does Everything Taste Like Chicken?

(Last Updated On: December 18, 2019)

Why Does Everything Taste Like Chicken?

We’ve all seen a character in film or on TV try some kind of new food, only to say something along the lines of “tastes like chicken”. That, or maybe you have a friend who does this in real life. Heck, maybe you’re even that friend. But have you ever thought about where this well-known phrase comes from in the first place? Why does everything taste like chicken?

Why Does Everything Taste Like Chicken?

Unless you season and prepare your chicken in a way that isn’t boring, the actual edible part of the chicken itself is quite bland. Chicken is like the blank paper of meat. Not even lined paper, just the stuff you get from the local office store and shove in your printer. 

The point is, there are a handful of linguistic theories as to how everything tasting like chicken came to be. One of them is just because people had to project some super bland taste onto weird meats. If chicken is so bland and everyone (in theory) knows what chicken tastes like, it’s no wonder that the baseline expression for food has to do with chicken. 

When Was the Phrase First Used?

Apparently, the origins of “it tastes like chicken” are not as ubiquitous as chicken is. Because the phrase’s first use could go as far back as 1877, in a New York magazine named Intelligencer. In their original article regarding chicken, they liken rat flesh to, you guessed it, chicken. The Register made the comparison between alligator and chicken in 1891. 

*Author’s note: I haven’t had rat meat before, but I have had alligator meat and it did taste like chicken. It did not have the texture of chicken, though.

While these may be some of the earlier uses of the phrase “tastes like chicken,” we’re pretty sure neither the Intelligencer nor the Register were the vanguard of popularizing new turns of phrase. It’s more likely that Robert Klein popularized the phrase in 1988. This kind of lines up to when “tastes like chicken” gained the vast majority of its momentum–namely the 1990s. 

Evolution and Tasting Like Chicken

Alright, we’re not going to go through every single possible evolutionary branch of the chicken. Because that would take a lot of time to write, a lot of time to read, and we’re pretty sure you also aren’t here for that. 

We can agree that some animals are closer to each other on the evolutionary line. For example, lobsters and shrimp are a lot closer to each other than lobsters and cows. By proxy, cows and lambs are closer to each other than they are with lobsters. So it would make sense that lobsters and shrimp taste way more alike than either do with beef. Same goes for beef and lamb tasting more like each other than they do with lobster meat.

Anyway, chickens go pretty far back, genetically far closer to dinosaurs than we might think. We suppose it might make sense then that chickens and some reptiles tend to taste alike. Though evolution isn’t going to be justifying your weird friend who does nothing but compare new chocolates to chicken or whatever. 

You may know why stuff tastes like it, but how many chickens are there really? Test yourself here.

About the Author:

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Kyler is a content writer at Sporcle living in Seattle, and is currently studying at the University of Washington School of Law. He's been writing for Sporcle since 2019; sometimes the blog is an excellent platform to answer random personal questions he has about the world. Most of his free time is spent drinking black coffee like water.

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