Benefits and Costs

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

The industrialization of the chicken has brought benefits, and these shouldn’t be underestimated. A pound of broiler can now be produced from less than two pounds of feed, a pound of eggs from less than three, so both chickens and eggs are bargains among animal foods. Egg quality has also improved. City and country dwellers alike enjoy fresher, more uniform eggs than formerly, when small-farm hens ran free and laid in odd places, and when spring eggs were stored until winter in limewater or waterglass. Refrigeration alone has made a tremendous difference. Year-round laying (made possible by controlled lighting and temperature), prompt gathering and cooling, and daily shipping by rapid, refrigerated transport mean that good eggs deteriorate much less between hen and cook than they did in the more relaxed, more humane past.