poultry

poultry

[pohl-tree]
poultry, domesticated fowl kept primarily for meat and eggs; including birds of the order Galliformes, e.g., the chicken, turkey, guinea fowl, pheasant, quail, and peacock; and natatorial (swimming) birds, e.g., the duck and goose. Several poultry birds, including the chicken and the goose, were domesticated over 3,000 years ago. The chief poultry bird is the chicken, which probably originated as a jungle fowl in SW Asia. Until recently, poultry were raised for domestic and commercial use on many farms in the United States. Large-scale producers now virtually monopolize the poultry industry. Specialized hatcheries deliver chicks fresh from the incubator to commercial growers, who mass-produce birds under precisely controlled conditions on diets scientifically calculated to produce rapid growth to market size, for delivery to processors. Many distinct chicken breeds, once appreciated for their particular combinations of characteristics, have been combined through selective breeding into a few relatively standard types that are notably efficient converters of feed into meat or eggs. The dominant meat chicken today is a cross between the fast-growing female White Plymouth Rock chicken, and the deep-breasted male Cornish chicken (see Cornish hen). The predominant egg type in the United States today is the White Leghorn chicken. Dual-purpose meat-and-egg breeds have all but disappeared. Turkeys have been similarly standardized. Because of their lower cost and lower fat content, chicken and turkey are increasingly popular protein sources with American consumers, rivaling pork and even beef in per capita consumption. A few breeds of chicken are raised chiefly for their ornamental appearance or as pets. These include the Polish varieties, characterized by their large showy crests; the fighting, or game, varieties, still bred where cockfighting is popular; and the Bantams, which are primarily miniature counterparts of standard breeds.

See R. Moreng and J. Avens, Poultry Science and Production (1985); R. E. Austic and M. C. Nesheim, Poultry Production (13th ed. 1990).

Raising birds commercially or domestically for meat, eggs, and feathers. Chickens, ducks, turkeys, and geese are the birds of primary commercial importance. Guinea fowl and squabs are chiefly of local interest. Though chickens have been domesticated for at least 4,000 years, their meat and eggs have been mass-production commodities only since circa 1800.

Learn more about poultry farming with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Poultry is the category of domesticated birds which some humans keep for the purpose of collecting their eggs, or kill for their meat and/or feathers. These most typically are members of the superorder Galloanserae (fowl), especially the order Galliformes (which includes chickens and turkeys) and the family Anatidae (in order Anseriformes), commonly known as "waterfowl" (e.g. domestic ducks and domestic geese). Poultry also include other birds which humans kill for their meat, such as pigeons or doves or birds considered to be game, like pheasants. The term also refers to the flesh of such birds.

Examples of types of poultry

Bird Wild ancestor Domestication Killed or used for
Chicken Red Junglefowl India, c. 3000 BC meat, eggs, ornamentation
Duck Mallard various meat, feathers, eggs
Goose Greylag Goose/Swan Goose various meat, feathers, eggs
Peacock various various meat, feathers, ornamentation, landscaping
Swan Wild Swan various feathers, eggs, landscaping
Turkey Wild Turkey Mexico meat

Cuts of poultry

The meatiest parts of a bird are the flight muscles on its chest, called breast meat, and the walking muscles on the first and second segments of its legs, called the thigh and drumstick respectively.

White meat has less oxygen-carrying myoglobin than the walking muscles, or dark meat, and is thus lighter in color. Dark meat tends to come from muscles more heavily exercised, which therefore also have more fat stored in them. This accounts for both dark meat's reputation as being unhealthier, and yet better-tasting.

Poultry cage structure

Cage structure for poultry and the like comprises a number of cage rows mounted on A-frames in pyramided, stepped back, A-shaped, elevational array. Each cage row includes a bottom/back member and a top/front member joined together to form a row of cages of rectangular cross section. Each cage row is tipped forward to incline the cage bottom so as to urge eggs laid in the cages to roll forward into an egg collecting trough at the cage front. The bottom element of the bottom/back member forms at least a portion of the top of the cage row next below. A feeder trough forms a portion of each cage front.

Poultry Storage

Refrigerate fresh chicken in its original package in a low, cold part of the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Freeze uncooked chicken if it will not be used within that time. For extra protection, place chicken in a plastic bag to separate it from other foods. Store it on a low shelf of the refrigerator so it does not drip onto other items in the refrigerator. When freezing, wrap parts separately in foil or other freezer wrap. This makes it easy to defrost only the amount you need. Proper wrapping prevents "freezer burn," which results from contact with air. Wrap cooked chicken well before storing in the refrigerator or freezer.

Preservation Introduction The astonishing fact about food preservation is that it permeated every culture at nearly every moment in time. To survive ancient man had to harness nature. In frozen climates he froze seal meat on the ice. In tropical climates he dried foods in the sun.

Food by its nature begins to spoil the moment it is harvested. Food preservation enabled ancient man to make roots and live in one place and form a community. He no longer had to consume the kill or harvest immediately, but could preserve some for later use. Each culture preserved their local food sources using the same basic methods of food preservation.

Drying In ancient times the sun and wind would have naturally dried foods. Evidence shows that Middle East and oriental cultures actively dried foods as early as 12,000 B.C. in the hot sun. Later cultures left more evidence and each would have methods and materials to reflect their food supplies—fish, wild game, domestic animals, etc.

Vegetables and fruits were also dried from the earliest times. The Romans were particularly fond of any dried fruit they could make. In the Middle Ages purposely built “still houses” were created to dry fruits, vegetables and herbs in areas that did not have enough strong sunlight for drying. A fire was used to create the heat needed to dry foods and in some cases smoking them as well.

Freezing Freezing was an obvious preservation method to the appropriate climates. Any geographic area that had freezing temperatures for even part of a year made use of the temperature to preserve foods. Less than freezing temperatures were used to prolong storage times. Cellars, caves and cool streams were put to good use for that purpose.

In America estates had icehouses built to store ice and food on ice. Soon the “icehouse” became an “icebox”. In the 1800’s mechanical refrigeration was invented and was quickly put to use. Also in the late 1800’s Clarence Birdseye discovered that quick freezing at very low temperatures made for better tasting meats and vegetables. After some time he perfected his “quick freeze” process and revolutionized this method of food preservation.

Fermenting Fermentation was not invented, but rather discovered. No doubt that the first beer was discovered when a few grains of barley were left in the rain. Opportunistic microorganisms fermented the starch-derived sugars into alcohols. So too can be said about fruits fermented into wine, cabbage into Kim chi or sauerkraut, and so on. The skill of ancient peoples to observe, harness, and encourage these fermentations are admirable. Some anthropologists believe that mankind settled down from nomadic wanderers into farmers to grow barley to make beer in roughly 10,000 BC. Beer was nutritious and the alcohol was divine. It was treated as a gift from the gods.

Fermentation was a valuable food preservation method. It not only could preserve foods, but it also created more nutritious foods and was used to create more palatable foods from less than desirable ingredients. Microorganisms responsible for fermentations can produce vitamins as they ferment. This produces a more nutritious end product from the ingredients.

Pickling Pickling is preserving foods in vinegar (or other acid). Vinegar is produced from starches or sugars fermented first to alcohol and then the alcohol is oxidized by certain bacteria to acetic acid. Wines, beers and ciders are all routinely transformed into vinegars.

Pickling may have originated when food was placed in wine or beer to preserve it, since both have a low pH. Perhaps the wine or beer went sour and the taste of the food in it was appealing. Containers had to be made of stoneware or glass, since the vinegar would dissolve the metal from pots. Never ones to waste anything our ancestors found uses for everything. The left over pickling brine found many uses. The Romans made a concentrated fish pickle sauce called “garum”. It was powerful stuff packing a lot of fish taste in a few drops.

There was a spectacular increase in food preservation in the sixteenth century owing to the arrival in Europe of new foods. Ketchup was an oriental fish brine that traveled the spice route to Europe and eventually to America where someone finally added sugar to it. Spices were added to these pickling sauces to make clever recipes. Soon chutneys, relishes, piccalillis, mustards, and ketchups were commonplace. Worcester sauce was an accident from a forgotten barrel of special relish. It aged for many years in the basement of the Lea and Perrins Chemist shop.

Curing The earliest curing was actually dehydration. Early cultures used salt to help desiccate foods. Salting was common and even culinary by choosing raw salts from different sources (rock salt, sea salt, spiced salt, etc.). In the 1800’s it was discovered that certain sources of salt gave meat a red color instead of the usual unappetizing grey. Consumers overwhelmingly preferred the red colored meat. In this mixture of salts were nitrites (saltpeter). As the microbiology of Clostridium botulinum was elucidated in the 1920’s it was realized that nitrites inhibited this organism.

Jam and Jelly Preservation with the use of honey or sugar was well known to the earliest cultures. Fruits kept in honey were commonplace. In ancient Greece quince was mixed with honey, dried somewhat and packed tightly into jars. The Romans improved on the method by cooking the quince and honey producing a solid texture.

The same fervor of trading with India and the Orient that brought pickled foods to Europe brought sugar cane. In northern climates that do not have enough sunlight to successfully dry fruits housewives learned to make preserves—heating the fruit with sugar.

Canning Canning is the process in which foods are placed in jars or cans and heated to a temperature that destroys microorganisms and inactivates enzymes. This heating and later cooling forms a vacuum seal. The vacuum seal prevents other microorganisms from recontaminating the food within the jar or can.

Canning is the newest of the food preservations methods being pioneered in the 1790s when a French confectioner, Nicolas Appert, discovered that the application of heat to food in sealed glass bottles preserved the food from deterioration. He theorized “if it works for wine, why not foods?” In about 1806 Appert's principles were successfully trialed by the French Navy on a wide range of foods including meat, vegetables, fruit and even milk. Based on Appert's methods Englishman, Peter Durand, used tin cans in 1810.

Appert had found a new and successful method to preserve foods, but he did not fully understand it. It was thought that the exclusion of air was responsible for the preservations. It was not until 1864 when Louis Pasteur discovered the relationship between microorganisms and food spoilage/illness did it become clearer. Just prior to Pasteur’s discovery Raymond Chevalier-Appert patented the pressure retort (canner) in 1851 to can at temperatures higher than 212ºF. However, not until the 1920’s was the significance of this method known in relation to Clostridium botulinum.

Conclusion Some historians believe that food preservation was not only for sustenance, but also cultural. They point to numerous special occasion preserved foods that have religious or celebratory meanings. In America more and more people live in cities and procure foods commercially. They have been removed from a rural self-sufficient way of life. Yet, for many, a garden is still a welcome site. And, annually there exists a bounty crop of vegetables and fruits. It is this cultural nature of preserved foods that survives today. Interests have shifted from preserve “because we have to”, to “preserve because we like to.”

References and Sources Mc Govern, P. The Origins and Ancient History of Wine at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology. Available at http://www.upenn.edu/museum/Wine/wineintro.html. Accessed 2002 Feb 12.

Shephard, S. 2001. Pickled, Potted, and Canned: How the Art and Science of Food Preserving Changed the World. Simon & Schuster. 366pp.

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