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2.2.1: Introduction to Poultry Identification

  • Page ID
    • Marshall Welsh & William R. Thibodeaux
    • Finch Henry Job Corps Center & Nicholls State University

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    Market Forms of Poultry

    Poultry, regardless of type, is organized for the consumer in 4 categories that get progressively more specialized and specific in meaning as they go. 

    Kind: This term refers to the species of bird, e.g. turkey, chicken, squab, ostrich

    Class: This is a subgroup of kind for example chickens have the greatest variety of classes e.g. cornish game hen, broiler, roaster, capon, and stag to name a few.

    Style: This is the term that refers to the amount of cleaning or processing the bird has undergone. E.g. live, dressed (killed, bled, plucked), ready to cook (completely processed).

    Type: Fresh or frozen?image-from-rawpixel-id-2764551-original.png

    When it comes to the style of poultry, this can also indicate the degree to which the bird has been broken down. Broken down references to what degree the bird has been cut up into portions. These portions are what the consumer sees when they purchase poultry at the store. Common cuts include breast, thigh, wing, and whole.


    The muscle composition of chicken is approximately 72% water, 20% protein, 7% fat, and 1% minerals. Chicken has no marbling of the meat therefore no intramuscular fat. The fat of a chicken is stored under its skin and in the abdominal cavity. Chicken fat has a lower melting point than other animal fats which can be cooked at lower temperatures. Rendered chicken fat is easy to keep refrigerated and sealed in containers for a flavorful cooking fat that can positively affect the food budget. Dark meat is found in the leg and thigh, and contains myoglobin, an oxygen binding protein for muscle use. Dark meat also contains more fat and connective tissue than light meat, therefore it requires longer cooking time than white meat and leans itself well to roasting and braising.


    • Game hens - raised five weeks or less.
    • Broiler/fryer - raised 10 weeks or less.
    • Roaster - raised between 8 and 12 weeks.
    • Capon – 4 - 8 months
    • Hens/ stewing - over ten months

    Game Hens

    Game hens are the young or immature progeny of Cornish chickens and white Rock chickens. They are very flavorful and weight one to two pounds. French refer to these as ‘Poussin’. These little hens can be split and broiled, grilled or trussed and roasted whole. A friend of mine from Idaho once prepared a delicious roasted Cornish Game Hen with Amaretto that was superb.

    File:Malay Game Fowl Hen.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
    File:Modern Game hen.JPG - Wikimedia Commons
    Game Hens from commons.

    Broilers and Fryers

    These birds are young with soft, smooth textured skin, and are relatively lean. They generally weigh three and a half pounds or less. You may use any method to cook broilers and fryers. One popular method for the recent resurgence in grilling is “spatchcocking” which is a way of cutting out the back bone, breaking the breast bone, and removing the breast cartilage. The bird is then seasoned and grilled under a brick and turned to complete the cooking.


    File:Spatchcocking.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

    Grilled Spatchcocked Chicken -


    These can be difficult to find and once were the darling of the Garde Manger for cold platter use with Chaud Froid. Capons are the surgically castrated male chickens (roosters) which are fattened for consumption. They are bred for flavor and have a high proportion of light to dark meat. They weigh between 5-7 pounds and are often roasted.

    File:Francatelli Capon a la Godard.jpg

    "Capon a la Godard". Engraving from Charles Elmé Francatelli's
    The Modern Cook. 28th edition, 1886

    File:Capons in Hainan - 03.jpg - Wikimedia Commons



    Ducks can be harvested from the wild when the lawful hunting season is in, but today we have year round access to beautifully farm raised duck products from whole birds to specialty pates. Ducks are exclusively dark meat but we must treat the breast meat and leg meat as if they are two different animals. 

    Duck have a tremendous amount of fat as nature’s buoyancy device to keep this waterfowl afloat. The fat is referred to as “white gold” and is always rendered to use as cooking fat for confit of duck and Pommes de Terre Sarladaises. They also have a high ‘bone-to-meat’ ratio, which makes for making great stock once fabricated. The three primary ducks we eat are Muscovy, Mallard, and Pekin.

    Canards de Barbarie.jpg

    Muscovy Duck -

    File:Pekin Ducks.jpg

    Pekin ducks -

    File:Mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos) male.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

    Mallard duck -


    Goose is a wonderful bird often roasted for popular holidays with acidic fruit based sauces known as a gastrique. This type of sauce offsets the fattiness of this succulent waterfowl. Geese are divided into two classes of young and mature. They as do duck only contain dark meat.

    Bernache du Canada, à l'Île Paton (2).jpg

    Canadian goose -

    Christmas-goose-(Weihnachtsgans) 1.jpg

    Roasted Christmas Goose - Fen.

    Guinea Fowl

    These birds, like geese, are divided into young and mature classifications. They are the descendants of a game bird and have both light and dark meat. The breasts are tender enough to sauté, but the bird is so lean that it helps to lard or bard the bird when roasting.

    Guinea fowl.jpg

    Guinea Fowl -


    Though pigeons can be eaten at any size or age, we usually refer to the young pre-flight pigeons as squab. They are very popular in Persian restaurants. Pigeons only contain dark meat and is very tender even

    Chinese Fried Pigeon (Squab) - The Woks of Life

    Chinese Fried Pigeon-


    Turkey has four classifications.

    • Fryer/roaster
    • Young
    • Yearling
    • Mature

    Turkey is the second most popular category of poultry in the U.S. behind chicken. It contains both light and dark meat and relatively low in fat. Turkey can be roasted and young turkeys can be prepared with a variety of methods. Many people make ‘pillards’ of turkey to bread and sauté as you would veal for schnitzel. I like to make tornedoes from the tenders for turkey mignons. Braised turkey potpies are a comforting dish in the fall and winter. Wild and farm raised turkeys are different in appearance and flavor.

    File:Wild Turkeys.jpg
    File:Wild Turkey (25473218982).jpg - Wikimedia Commons
    Wild Gobbler - Farm Raised Turkeys -


    Ratites are a family of flightless birds with small wings and flat breast bones. They include the Ostrich, Emu, and Rhea. Each are classified as a red meat and are low in fat and cholesterol. The most delicious of the three is Ostrich and they can be prepared in any way that you would prepare the lean delicate meat of veal.

    File:Ostrich (Struthio camelus) male (13994461256).jpg - Wikimedia Commons
    File:Emu in the wild-1+ (2153629669).jpg - Wikimedia Commons
    File:Rhea americana qtl2.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
    Ostrich - Emu - Rhea -

    Poultry Offal

    Also known as giblets, these parts of the bird include the gizzards, hearts, livers, and necks. Livers are often sautéed, broiled, or used in pates. Gizzards are the second stomach and act as a grinding mechanism for their food; they are often fried as are livers in the South. Hearts are sometimes sautéed or creamed. The Garde Manger sometimes confits these parts and uses them to inlay as a garnish within pate. The necks are used for stock with the remaining carcasses. Sometimes southern cooks pick the meat form the neck to add into cornbread dressing or to make a cornstarch thickened giblet gravy with stock, giblets, and boiled eggs

    Giblet Gravy Recipe

    Duck Giblets - neck, liver, heart, and gizzard -

    This page titled 2.2.1: Introduction to Poultry Identification is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Marshall Welsh & William R. Thibodeaux via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.