Quality Production: A French Example

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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There have been small but significant exceptions to this general trend toward producing meat as cheaply as possible. In the 1960s, the French poultry industry found that many consumers were dissatisfied with the standard chicken’s bland flavor and tendency to shrink and fall off the bone when cooked. Some producers then developed a production scheme guided by considerations of quality as well as efficiency. The result was the popular label rouge, or “red label,” which identifies chickens that have been produced according to specific standards: they are slow-growing varieties, fed primarily on grain rather than artificially concentrated feeds, raised in flocks of moderate size and with access to the outdoors, and slaughtered at 80 or more days of age rather than 40 to 50. Red-label chickens are leaner and more muscular than their standard industrial equivalent, lose a third less of their moisture during cooking, are firmer in texture, and have a more pronounced flavor. Similar quality-based meat production schemes exist today in a number of countries.