USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) issued policy memo SP26-2013 yesterday that extends flexibility so that “program operators are able to use USDA’s bone-in chicken products through school year 2013-2014.” FNS noted in its memo that bone-in chicken is to be used “with careful attention to calorie requirements.” The memo noted that for oven roasted eight-piece chicken, the chicken breast contributes 5.25 ounces creditable meat (meat and skin) and 262.5 calories. For eight-piece cut-up raw chicken, the cooked breast (meat and skin) contributes about 294 calories. “With careful menu planning,” either of these options could fit into an 850 calorie high school lunch meal (averaged over the week), if served no more than once a week, FNS explained.

USDA will offer the following bone-in chicken products for school year 2013-2014, with initial orders from states due May 1. Other opportunities to order these items will also be available through the school year, FNS added. These products are: chicken cut-up, frozen, eight-piece; chicken small chilled-bulk (for processing only); and, chicken oven roasted frozen eight-piece. “USDA will continue to work with industry to explore new bone-in chicken specifications and identify options that will yield a cooked portion more appropriate to serve in school meals on a regular basis,” according to the memo.

Last week, National Chicken Council President Mike Brown wrote to USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin W. Concannon to request that his agency extend the program’s flexibility to include bone-in chicken. Brown also expressed in his letter NCC’s appreciation for FNS issuing on February 25 memo SP26-2013 that provided for “longer term guidance” for using certain foods in the national school lunch program.

In a follow-up letter today to Under Secretary Concannon, Brown expressed appreciation for the FNS guidance issued yesterday that will again allow bone-in chicken in the school lunch program. “FNS’s positive action regarding chicken will benefit program operators and students. Chicken’s wholesomeness, nutrition, and enjoyable taste appeals to a very wide range of students across America, and NCC is most pleased they will continue to have chicken served on their school menus,” Brown said in his letter.