Chicken Styles

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
The modern chicken is a product of the drive to breed fast-growing animals and raise them as rapidly and on as little feed as possible. It’s an impressive feat of agricultural engineering to produce a 4-pound bird on 8 pounds of feed in six weeks! Because such a bird grows very fast and lives very little, its meat is fairly bland, and that of the younger “game hen” or “poussin” even more so.
Largely in reaction to the image of industrial chicken, so-called “free range” chickens are now sold in the United States, but the term only means that the birds have access to an outdoor pen. “Roasting” chickens and capons (castrated males) are raised to double or more the age of the standard broiler, are heavier, and so have given their leg muscles more exercise; the capon may also be more succulent thanks to the infiltration of marbling fat.