Cempazuchitl

When I first arrived in Mexico, one of the first ‘weird’ things I noticed was the colour of the chickens. Not the live running around chicken – the dead, plucked and ready for cooking chickens being sold in markets. The skin was a really bright yellow. I mean, really bright yellow. For the last three years, lacking a definitive answer from any Mexican, I had assumed it was a dye from a preservative or disinfectant of some sort. But it turns out that’s not the case.

The reason chickens are yellow here is because farmers add to the feed pellets the petals of the Cempazuchitl flower, also known as the Flor de Muertos. In English that’s the Day of the Dead flower, but you probably know it better as the Marigold. So there you have it. Mexican chickens are yellow because of a Mexican obsession with the Flor de Muertos. You’ll see it everywhere at the end of October, beginning of November when the Day of the Dead festival is on. And apparently, the petals in their feed not only makes them yellow, but makes them more healthy. The standard white chicken looks diseased to a Mexican!

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