What is the difference between 鳥肉 and 鶏肉? A friend said that 鶏肉 is cooked chicken and 鳥肉 is raw chicken. That doesn't seem right to me since I've rarely seen 鳥肉 used.


1 Answer 1


Basic answer: they do not differ in the way your friend claims.

A google image search can be helpful for these sorts of questions. If you do so for this question, you'll see that they turn up roughly the same images with little distinction in terms of whether it is cooked or not.

Longer answer (reference):

[鳥肉]{とりにく} is literally "bird meat."

[鶏肉]{とりにく} is chicken meat (also readable as けいにく).

Turns out though that nearly all of the bird meat people in contemporary Japan eat is chicken. Ergo, the uses are largely synonymous. One defense of this suggestion is that we don't bother spelling out types of cattle so precisely most of the time. What do you want for dinner? "Guernsey Beef Steak" vs. "Angus Beef Steak" (normally, we'd just say steak).

Humorous bonus question from 知恵袋 was why a 焼き鳥屋 is not called a 焼き鶏屋 since the bird meat there is all chicken usually.

Conceivably, 鳥肉 could be meaningfully broader in some place where they eat pheasant, quail, or duck. My knowledge is not exhaustive.

  • One could imagine a time, or even places in the rural / non-metropolitan Japan where "yakitori" could mean pheasant, quail, or some other bird.
    – LiveMynd
    Sep 2, 2015 at 4:30
  • @LiveMynd for contemporary, how rural are we talking? I live in Asahikawa. Should I ask someone in Kushiro?
    – virmaior
    Sep 2, 2015 at 4:38
  • Like boondocks rural, maybe? :D The kinds of places where eating game fowl is not unusual, or maybe even common. Or think earlier time periods, before the massive commercialization of chicken meat.
    – LiveMynd
    Sep 4, 2015 at 5:02

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