Monday, September 24, 2007
Amazingly, I've lived within a few miles of a Cowboy Chicken location for a few years, but never investigated their food until this week. It was fantastic, actually, and if you live in Dallas, you really should check it out.
I've driven past it about a million times, but this week was the first time to go near the front of the store, which is where they have their rotisserie on full display, great spits of roasting chickens spinning like pretty maids in a row in what may be the ultimate white trash cheap thrill. Yes, I stood for minutes watching them spin round, the wood fire blazing at the back of the oven.
Anyhoo, I was thinking of that this morning, and of how chicken is such a staple of the American diet, and it started me really wondering about chickens. Here in the USA, we generally don't eat the rooster and I'm given to wonder what really happens to the male of that species. Surely, life is sweet for a stud rooster who excels the adage from of 2 girls for every boy.
Of course, everyone has heard of the classic of French cuisine "Coq au Vin" which naturally is an alcoholic old rooster who perhaps is no longer a favorite with the ladies, a newer, more spry male specimen having joined the fowl yard. Apparently, the excess of connective tissue in an older rooster makes for a much richer broth. Who knew?
Another common method of dispatching male yardbirds is their caponization. A capon is a mature male chicken which was castrated at an early age, and the adults of which become very non-agressive and terrific baby-sitters for the baby chicks. (How to caponize a rooster) They also have a higher fat content and are very meaty, and many people prefer this bird to the hen. They also can substitute for the soprano in vocal ensembles. I've seen capon on the menu in Europe, and I've eaten it in dishes in a Belgian farmhouse, and it was superb. Apparently, the castration of chickens is banned in Britain, but for all its Greenpeace and PETA pretenses, I think no such ban exists anywhere in Europe.
So what of American male chickens? What exactly is the ratio of male/female chicks, and are they sexed in the eggs and the excess of males turned into omelettes? Are they the silent victims of the poultry industry? Now that the feds and public are more and more apt to cry fowl over cockfighting, what purpose is left to the average American rooster? Does he wind up in McNuggets?
I'm not losing sleep over it, but I am curious.
Being a resourceful kind of chick myself, I've searched for info, and apparently, along with defectives and slow-hatching females, many male chicks are destroyed upon hatching to make way for more marketable birds. Some males along with females are slaughtered at 45 days as young broilers. Pity, as capon is delicious and is a treat of which the American public seems largely oblivious. You don't know what you're missing.
I'll not abuse your intelligence by providing links to the places I obtainded the above information because I'll never be caught recommending tofurkey or any other virtual meat abominations that other folk content themselves with. I can respect that someone makes another choice than me, but I sure don't like being preached at about anything.
Besides, if we weren't meant to eat animals, they wouldn't be made out of meat.