Can You Eat Chicken During Lent?

Lent is the period during the year when Catholics observe fasting and practice abstinence. It is to honor the 40 days Jesus spent fasting and the day he did. However, you might be confused about what and what not to eat during this time. Especially, can you eat chicken during lent?

The answer is right here:

Catholics are prohibited from eating meat (birds and animals, including chickens, pigs, cows, goats, and sheep) during Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all the Fridays during Lent. However, during Lent, you can eat fish and fluid foods prepared from meat (broths, gravies, sauces, etc.). Also, consuming cheese, butter, and eggs are permitted during Lent days while observing abstinence.

The following guide covers more about eating chicken and other meat during Lent. So, let’s dive deep into the topic and explore what you can and cannot eat during Lent.

Church’s Law On Fasting And Abstinence During Lent

It is mentioned as the fourth precept of the church, “You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church” (CCC:2043). Thus, fasting and abstinence are the two official practices of penitence in the Catholic Church.

Fasting is best defined as when you consume less food than usual. In comparison, abstinence is skipping eating meat (except fish) on specific days during Lent.

Fasting

For fasting, the Catholic Church underlies the following rules:

  • Catholics are required to fast on Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent, which comes six and a half weeks before Easter) and Good Friday (the Friday before Easter).
  • Every member between the age of 18-60 qualifies for fasting during Lent.
  • You may consume one big meal on fast days or choose to have two smaller meals. However, the total of the two small means should be equal to the typical, big meal. The two should not surpass each other.
  • Snacking is not permitted on fast days.
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The following can excuse from fasting:

  • Sick/infirm/handicapped
  • Mentally ill people dependent on others for nourishment
  • Pregnant ladies
  • Nursing women
  • Manual Laborers

Abstinence

Similarly, there are various obligations when it comes to abstinence as well.

  • Every member from the age of 14 and above should practice abstinence on the following days:
    • Ash Wednesday
    • Good Friday
    • All Fridays during Lent
  • In Catholic Christianity, meat from any animal is considered flesh, and followers of the Catholic Church are prohibited from consuming meat on the days mentioned above.

Can You Eat Meat During Lent?

As stated above, the concern about eating meat during lent has specific conditions. You are not permitted to consume meat during Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all the Fridays during Lent.

However, this also means that Catholics can eat meat without any restrictions during the other days of the week, such as:

  • Mondays
  • Tuesdays
  • Wednesdays (except Ash Wednesday)
  • Thursdays
  • Saturdays
  • Sundays

Hence, Catholics are allowed to eat meat on most days during Lent. It is only Ash Wednesday and Fridays (including Good Friday) that abstinence is expected to be observed.

Can You Eat Chicken During Lent?

Chicken is considered flesh meat since we get it from animals. So, eating chicken is not permitted during Lent (Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and All Fridays).

Other than that, Catholics can consume chicken on other weekdays and weekends.

What Other Meat Is Not Permissible During Lent?

All kinds of flesh meat are not permitted to consume during specific Lent days. This includes:

  • Chicken
  • Cow
  • Goat
  • Pig
  • Sheep

Again, you can consume these meats on days other than Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and All Fridays.

Ruling On Eating Meat-Related Foods

Eating flesh meat is not permitted during Lent, but the ruling is different for meat-related foods.

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The abstinence laws do not hold the sale ruling on fluids made from meat; you cannot eat the meat of animals and birds, but you can consume liquid foods made from them.

Thus, this includes the following:

  • Chicken broth
  • Meat gravy
  • Meat soup
  • Sauces
  • Seasoning
  • Condiments (should be prepared using animal fat)

All the fluids mentioned above prepared using meat are permitted during lent.

Similarly, modern theologians also declare that eating cheese, butter, and eggs is fine during Lent. It is because these foods are derived from meat and do not count in eating meat. Plus, they do not have a meaty taste, so they are permitted.

Why Is Fish Not Considered Meat During Lent?

The controversy is always on the rise when it comes to eating fish during Lent. Out of the many myths, folklore tells us that centuries ago, a medieval pope banned red meat on Fridays to favor European fishing businesses.

Such a theory might not be valid from religious perspectives, so Sunday school teachers have another explanation. Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays to honor Jesus’ death and his 40 days of fasting before he died. Since Jesus died on Friday, Catholics practice abstinence on all Fridays during Lent.

Even though such a theological answer might be true religiously, it still doesn’t give a fair answer to why fish is permitted during Lent but other meats are not.

Before we move on, it is also important to note that the reason for eating or avoiding meat (and fish) has long roots in history. Ancient Catholics preferred eating only bread during lent. The perspective was shifted to eating everything but meat, eggs, and dairy in the Middle Ages.

Similarly, the controversy between meat versus fish was also fully established by the 13th century. Out of the various reasons you can eat fish but not meat is because, during old times, fish was considered the food of the poor while meat was the symbol of luxury.

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Because Lent is a time of simplicity and reflection, abstinence was considered only for avoiding eating meat. Note that meat here means flesh meat obtained from animals and birds. Fish, however, was not considered in the same category given it was already a simple food consumed by the poor.

Thus, shrimps, lobsters, and other watery animals are permitted to be consumed during Lent.

Which Food To Eat During Lent?

Up till now, it should be obvious that

  • Abstinence from eating meat (birds and animals) is only practiced on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and All Fridays during Lent.
  • Eating the meat of chicken, cow, goat, pig, and sheep is not permitted. However, you can eat:
    • Fish
    • Fluid/meat-related liquidy foods (broths, sauces, gravies, etc.)
    • Cheese, butter, and eggs

Other than that, there are plenty of things that you can eat to keep up with the missing nutritional value during lent, such as:

  • Tempeh
  • Tofu
  • Lentils
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables

Bottom Line

Lent is not about just avoiding eating food. It is a period of simplicity and reflection and to honor the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Some of the various benefits of fasting and practicing abstinence during Lent are spiritual growth, reduced levels of lust by building self-control, and spiritual empowerment.

As for the question regarding can you eat chicken during lent, you can eat any meat during lent on days except Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all the Fridays during Lent.

You are also permitted to eat fluids prepared from animal and bird meat, fish, and other chicken and meat alternatives.