Tuesday, June 6, 2023

The chicken of the century: the mistake that changed the US food industry

The same can be said of any major US city: a culinary walk through New York is a measure of the ubiquity of chicken. Its fried version, southern and 24 hours in Golden Krust or Bronx fried crown, with bread as thick as plasterboard. Of the fine rotisserie of the Upper East Side.

The Caribbean strain of the Flatbush chicken is ‘cheeky’, with the spiciness only the edges that the plants can tolerate. They have plastic containers filled with Chinese, Indian or Thai food with chicken, which is a tradition that people take and bring at all hours. In East Brooklyn, the feathers have sprouted in nurseries, where they are sold for house slaughter or, as some say, for Santeria. Even in the backyards of the progressive families we know, but the chickens run only from the eggs, not without a soul.

Chicken is the king of the US, although it is famous for the juicy roast, the hot dog that almost only tourists eat, or the ribeye, in many variations. It is also the world’s first power in the production of chickens -9,000 million animals – and almost in its consumption per capita, with 58 kilos per year, only Malaysia is surpassed, according to the “fair world”.

The purity and culture of chicken is overwhelming in the US, but it could be a mistake. It is now a hundred years old and happened in 1923 in a small coastal town in Delaware.

Then the chicken had been on the American continent for several centuries (in fact long before the US was a dream; the first chickens arrived on the second voyage of Christopher Columbus).

But their role was secondary: farmers and families always had a small herd to provide eggs for their own consumption. The food was only used for the stew of some old chicken that was already giving little crops, or it was an excellent delicacy (it became a chicken salad in a dish among well-to-do women at the end of the 19th century).


The story of the chicken, at least according to his stories, was changed by a woman: Cecilia Steele, a small, plump, hardworking and devoted woman, according to Emelyn Rudy, author of Taste Like Chicken: The Story of a Chicken Bird. America’.

Steele kept a few chickens in her yards to feed the family and supplement the meager salary of her husband, a Coast Guardsman. All spring ordered chicks from a hatchery in Dagsboro, a nearby town. In the spring of 1923 he ordered 50 chickens to be sent to him, which they do every year to finish the birds killed in winter. Due to an error at the origin of the chicken macro-industry, the nursery added no order: 500 chicks arrived.

ABC of breeding birds

Steele, who must be brave, did not return to him the surplus of 400 chickens that were sent to him. He had a wooden shed about the size of a shed in which he kept and raised animals. Eighteen weeks later, he made a big profit: 387 chickens survived, and he sold them at a very high price—62 cents a pound more than $10 today—to a merchant who carried the meat to restaurants in northern cities.

Cecilia was so pleased that she bought a thousand chickens the following year. She doubled her profit and soon her husband left his job and joined the chicken farm. In 1926 the farm already maintained ten thousand birds. His neighbors were not stupid, and they had eyes for business. By 1928, there were 500 chicken farms on the Delmarva Peninsula, a poor rural area that had experienced a bout with fowl fever.

Vitamin D

Steele’s story was not so much a mistake. There was also chance and luck. Delmarva is a territory shared by three states – Delaware, Maryland and Virginia – rural, but bordering large industrial cities at the moment, full of explosion: New York, Washington, Philadelphia and Baltimore are only a stone’s throw away. It was Roaring Twenty, with these cities eager for new products and with many deep pockets.

Another thing was decisive in making the chicken industry fertile at the time: the discovery in 1922 of vitamin D. Many birds died from rickets in the autumn or winter, due to the lack of light. That greatly limited the ability to raise chicks outside of the warm months. Farmers started feeding their chickens this vitamin and from one day to the next they were able to raise a large number of chickens for a year.

In the hundred years since Cecilia Steele decided to stick with the mainstream error, other elements in the record have allowed for the expansion of the chicken as a food source.

Perhaps it became the most important after World War II. Victor USA exported large quantities of beef and pork to restore Europe and the demand for protein was overwhelming. In 1945, the same year that the war ended, A&P, the largest distributor of chickens in the country, established a partnership with Agriculture to develop a more efficient chicken: one that would grow faster, bigger and with a higher percentage of meat. in the chest and in the thighs and thighs.

Fragment of the contest ‘El pollo de manana’ ABC

For this they organized a “chicken of tomorrow” competition with a prize of ten thousand dollars for the stink bird that got the best chicken. After months of regional competition, and with 40 finalists, there were two winners: the ideal from Connecticut with the award for ‘best skeleton’ and the other from California with the best performance efficiency. To get them a woman’s chicken, which then, and even today, is used as a sign of industry.

Successive crosses made the chickens bigger and more efficient. In 1940, it took 844 days for a chicken to be of sufficient weight to be sold as meat; today they take half the time and are twice as big.

The health factor also had to act successfully: in the 1970s, medical authorities began to warn of the risk of heart problems due to high marrow fat, with an eye especially on red meat. Others sometimes recommend lower-fat or healthier sources of fat, such as chicken or fish.

cheap product

The definitive result was price: with increases in mating and massive exploitation, the chicken went from being a commodity to being a privileged or cheap option for big occasions.

For this reason he became a leader in the manna industry. In 1961, according to FAO data, beef occupied 46.5 percent of the market, compared to 18.5 percent for chicken. From the 1990s, the percentages were already equal and in the latest data, 2019, the situation has been reversed: 29.3 percent for beef and 45.6 percent for chickens.

In 1961, according to FAO data, beef occupied 46.5 percent of the market, compared to 18.5 percent for chicken. By the 1990s, there were also percentages

Chicken was a global expansion – in 2020, 70 billion chickens were consumed worldwide, compared to 8 billion in 1965, and also controversial. The damaging effects of using antibiotics in broiler chickens, the environmental impact of large farms and, more recently, accusations of animal abuse in chicken farming have cast a shadow over the industry that is changing the way we eat.

Now packages of chicken products are full of labels and many times confused – they try to convince the eater that the animals live like kings: “organic”, “farm”, “farm”… That is, as Cecilia Steele had them in her. to him before the historical error. The fact is that the most voracious appetite developed by Americans can only be satisfied with the same amount of diligence: as in the last Super Bowl, the American football final, the big sports and television event of the year, Americans ate 1,450 million chicken wings. .

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Deskhttps://nationworldnews.com/
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