WASHINGTON – The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has amended its definition of roaster chickens to more accurately reflect current trends in poultry marketing.

FSIS is directing inspectors to allow chickens younger than 12 weeks to be labeled and marketed as roasters provided the birds meet all other characteristics of a roaster such as a ready-to-cook (RTC) carcass weight of 5 lbs. or more and other characteristics. The previous standard identified roasters as "a young chicken between eight and 12 weeks of age with a RTC carcass weight of 5 lbs. or more, that is tender-meated with soft, pliable, smooth-textured skin and breastbone cartilage that is somewhat less flexible than that of a broiler or fryer."

FSIS amended the roaster standard in response to a petition filed by the National Chicken Council, which argued that improved breeding and poultry management techniques have enabled chicken growers to raise chickens with the weight and other characteristics of roasters under eight weeks.