Chicken Grading

Tinnika Everaart

It's the nation's favourite meat, and the humble chicken is big business as we spend an astonishing $5.6 billion a year feeding our addiction..

Roast chicken has been an Aussie staple for decades, but today's consumers are faced with endless options when buying their meat of choice - from organic to free-range, caged to corn-fed - it's hard to know which chicken's your best choice..

Exclusive tests eliminate the guess work, revealing the tastiest chooks, and just how much you should be paying.

And the results are certain to ruffle a few feathers.

The tests were conducted by a judging panel - food buyer Josephine Prendergast, meat wholesaler Nash Cowie, food editor Wendy Hargreaves, celebrity chef Ian Curley, meat and poultry retailer Dennis Charalambus, and hospitality lecturer and head chef Mark Ageiss.

The judges know their stuff, and taste-tested ten different chickens, marking them on everything from taste, to aroma and The X Factor.

In a blind test the judges gave each chicken a score out of ten appearance, aroma, texture and mouth feel, after taste, flavour and balance, and finally The X Factor.

Australia is 'the clucky country', eating more than ten million chickens a week - which amounts to forty kilos per person, per year.

Despite its popularity however, chicken remains one of our most misunderstood meats, with words like 'chemicals', 'hormones', and 'antibiotics' making chicken meat sounds more like a pharmaceutical than dinner.

While many of us are turning to organic and free-range varieties, dietician Karen Inge says we shouldn't fear cheaper chicken.

"The truth is all chickens have been hormone free for 40 years," said Inge. "There's not enough chemicals in there to hurt you.

Inge believes factors other than taste are attracting us to the more expensive alternatives.

"People believe it's important to get a chicken that has been killed humanely," she said.

For chef Ian Curley, it's free-range or nothing.

"All chefs believe that a happy chicken is a good chicken to taste," he said.

"No restaurant would put a cheap chicken on its menu and expect its customers not to notice. You pay for what you get."

GFX tally

1.Coles RSPCA approved $11.90

2.Macro organic $21.79

3.Lilydale free range $13.70

4.Woolworths market value $8.29

5.Brannans free range $10.03

6.Bendigo gourmet free range $13.45

7.Game farm corn fed $10.88

8.Macro free range $11.28

9.Barossa chooks free range, corn fed $27.31

10.Inglewood farms organic $23.07

After our test results, it's clear price doesn't guarantee perfection. And our judges top pick was one of the cheapest, though it scored highest for every single category.

Suprisingly the two most expensive brands were the least favoured.