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How did chicken achieve the culinary ubiquity it enjoys today? It’s hard to imagine, but there was a point in history, not terribly long ago, that individual people each consumed less than ten pounds of chicken per year. Today, those numbers are strikingly different: we consumer nearly twenty-five times as much chicken as our great-grandparents did. Collectively, Americans How did chicken achieve the culinary ubiquity it enjoys today? It’s hard to imagine, but there was a point in history, not terribly long ago, that individual people each consumed less than ten pounds of chicken per year. Today, those numbers are strikingly different: we consumer nearly twenty-five times as much chicken as our great-grandparents did. Collectively, Americans devour 73.1 million pounds of chicken in a day, close to 8.6 billion birds per year. How did chicken rise from near-invisibility to being in seemingly "every pot," as per Herbert Hoover's famous promise? Emelyn Rude explores this fascinating phenomenon in Tastes Like Chicken. With meticulous research, Rude details the ascendancy of chicken from its humble origins to its centrality on grocery store shelves and in restaurants and kitchens. Along the way, she reveals startling key points in its history, such as the moment it was first stuffed and roasted by the Romans, how the ancients’ obsession with cockfighting helped the animal reach Western Europe, and how slavery contributed to the ubiquity of fried chicken today. In the spirit of Mark Kurlansky’s Cod and Bee Wilson's Consider the Fork, Tastes Like Chicken is a fascinating, clever, and surprising discourse on one of America’s favorite foods.


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How did chicken achieve the culinary ubiquity it enjoys today? It’s hard to imagine, but there was a point in history, not terribly long ago, that individual people each consumed less than ten pounds of chicken per year. Today, those numbers are strikingly different: we consumer nearly twenty-five times as much chicken as our great-grandparents did. Collectively, Americans How did chicken achieve the culinary ubiquity it enjoys today? It’s hard to imagine, but there was a point in history, not terribly long ago, that individual people each consumed less than ten pounds of chicken per year. Today, those numbers are strikingly different: we consumer nearly twenty-five times as much chicken as our great-grandparents did. Collectively, Americans devour 73.1 million pounds of chicken in a day, close to 8.6 billion birds per year. How did chicken rise from near-invisibility to being in seemingly "every pot," as per Herbert Hoover's famous promise? Emelyn Rude explores this fascinating phenomenon in Tastes Like Chicken. With meticulous research, Rude details the ascendancy of chicken from its humble origins to its centrality on grocery store shelves and in restaurants and kitchens. Along the way, she reveals startling key points in its history, such as the moment it was first stuffed and roasted by the Romans, how the ancients’ obsession with cockfighting helped the animal reach Western Europe, and how slavery contributed to the ubiquity of fried chicken today. In the spirit of Mark Kurlansky’s Cod and Bee Wilson's Consider the Fork, Tastes Like Chicken is a fascinating, clever, and surprising discourse on one of America’s favorite foods.

30 review for Tastes Like Chicken: A History of America's Favorite Bird

  1. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    Imagine a world where chickens are way more valuable alive than dead, producing eggs, eating bugs and spreading around manure from the composting pile (yielding the phrases yard bird and shitbird, by the way), and where fried chicken is just for special occasions because the meat yield is so low, the work so high and the sacrifice of a chicken only justified by extras or worn out hens. Until the 1940s, this was the culinary place of chicken--a meat so expensive people used veal to make mock chic Imagine a world where chickens are way more valuable alive than dead, producing eggs, eating bugs and spreading around manure from the composting pile (yielding the phrases yard bird and shitbird, by the way), and where fried chicken is just for special occasions because the meat yield is so low, the work so high and the sacrifice of a chicken only justified by extras or worn out hens. Until the 1940s, this was the culinary place of chicken--a meat so expensive people used veal to make mock chicken breasts, Newport socialites prized chicken salad as a delicacy and you had to pay extra for a household servant to fry it for you. This was an industry ripe for industrialization and standardization, made available by selective breeding, factory farming, fast food demands, antibiotics and modern logistics, with the result being a complete reversal of chicken into a tasteless, ubiquitous, extremely cheap staple requiring a complete rewrite of chicken recipes (and why none of my old ones work right).

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I really enjoyed this book, but as always, I wonder why I even eat chicken when I get to the chapters on how they are raised. It brought up visions of Food, Inc. Lots of good stuff in here (if you're inclined to consider odd facts about animals good stuff). There is so much trivia in this book. I learned why chicken wasn't a popular meat until recently (Hey! It's not real food for real men!) and I learned about the modern development of the chicken industry. I actually had a hard time putting thi I really enjoyed this book, but as always, I wonder why I even eat chicken when I get to the chapters on how they are raised. It brought up visions of Food, Inc. Lots of good stuff in here (if you're inclined to consider odd facts about animals good stuff). There is so much trivia in this book. I learned why chicken wasn't a popular meat until recently (Hey! It's not real food for real men!) and I learned about the modern development of the chicken industry. I actually had a hard time putting this down but ended up not being able to do a marathon read because of other (sigh) obligations. The author, Evelyn Rude, has a great sense to humor, also. This is not a dry read by any means.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bonnye Reed

    GNAB I received a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley, Emelyn Rude, and Pegasus Books. Thank you all for sharing this extraordinary history with me. Chickens are again very popular in American kitchens - and backyards. The last few years we have seen a massive return to the days of a coop in the back yard to provide GMO-free, pesticide-free, antibiotic-free eggs and chicken to American tables. Of course, few of us will actually kill and pluck and dra GNAB I received a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley, Emelyn Rude, and Pegasus Books. Thank you all for sharing this extraordinary history with me. Chickens are again very popular in American kitchens - and backyards. The last few years we have seen a massive return to the days of a coop in the back yard to provide GMO-free, pesticide-free, antibiotic-free eggs and chicken to American tables. Of course, few of us will actually kill and pluck and drain and clean our Hennie Pennies. But the eggs are awesome. This is a complex, informative and at times humorous history of the chicken in the settlement and growth of America. We follow the chicken from the colonial days when backyard chickens and their eggs added to Mom's work load and pin money, to the mega-factories producing millions of eggs, or millions of broiler chickens a week, around the world. One would think this to be a smooth, continuous climb through history. Emelyn Rude through meticulous research shares with us the fact that it was anything but a smooth journey. We see the rapid expansion of the need and popularity of chicken, once classified as a non-meat as is fish, as a religious preference and during wartimes and depressions and recessions and fad diets. And we see the chicken businesses grow, and then fail as prosperity and peace brings back the preferences for beef and pork in our diet. We see the effects on city lives as Americans work toward providing a 'chicken in every pot' and the drama of chicken unionizations and chicken Mafias and chicken monopolies and the effect of cheap chicken on poverty, both in America and around the world. And the one fact that has traveled through time, despite mega millions of chickens providing essential, nutritious protein throughout that world, is that it is still very easy to lose your shirt in the chicken business. This is a book I will recommend to my friends and family - especially those with chicken coops in the back yard. Keep those eggs coming, Ladies. August 1, 2016

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ariel Hudnall

    The chicken, despite its often modest appearance, is a bird of great and surprising history. Originally only fed to those who were considered sick or of weak constitution, the massive broiler bird that makes it to America's supermarkets each week is not the bird of the 1800s. Emelyn Rude, a somewhat accidental vegan, makes an interesting narrator for Tastes Like Chicken, which at times stumbles along like the fat birds it documents. The chicken has been at the heart of many truly fascinating poin The chicken, despite its often modest appearance, is a bird of great and surprising history. Originally only fed to those who were considered sick or of weak constitution, the massive broiler bird that makes it to America's supermarkets each week is not the bird of the 1800s. Emelyn Rude, a somewhat accidental vegan, makes an interesting narrator for Tastes Like Chicken, which at times stumbles along like the fat birds it documents. The chicken has been at the heart of many truly fascinating points of history. As both the original beneficiary to vaccines, and the reason the scientific community was able to discover vitamins, chickens aren't just food--though they've certainly been raised that way (or, as "growers" would now prefer they be described, grown.) While Tastes Like Chicken doesn't spend much time discussing the modern practices that have turned the birds into balloons of meat that still have organs meant for birds half their size, it's probably for the best. There is a sort of mechanical cadence to the work, and for the chapters that discuss the actual rearing of the animal, it's necessary. Unfortunately, the style meant the historical sections, especially in the beginning, felt a bit sluggish and clumsy. All that being said, to learn about how fried chicken bought some slaves their freedom, the great Chicken Wars of the New York mafia, and how this modest bird interested so many men through the years (like Darwin, though for the longest time, was still never considered a "meat"), or how the egg as a kitchen staple began in Petaluma, California during the Gold Rush was truly fascinating, and I leave the book greatly informed. Rude provided ample research, and ambled down pathways of minute history that must have been quite hard to track down. A great historical romp through the lens of America's favorite bird.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Emelyn Rude

    Obviously I'm a bit biased!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Einar Jensen

    Book Review: “One can’t help but think that maybe what chicken tasted like didn’t really matter that much after all.” Author Emelyn Rude concludes her wonderful, meticulously researched book Tastes Like Chicken: A History of America’s Favorite Bird with that simple insight. She artfully traces American chicken history from an era when is was unpopular and far more expensive than beef to a period of being so cheap is was unpopular to its current status as the nation’s mega meat of choice. She wea Book Review: “One can’t help but think that maybe what chicken tasted like didn’t really matter that much after all.” Author Emelyn Rude concludes her wonderful, meticulously researched book Tastes Like Chicken: A History of America’s Favorite Bird with that simple insight. She artfully traces American chicken history from an era when is was unpopular and far more expensive than beef to a period of being so cheap is was unpopular to its current status as the nation’s mega meat of choice. She weaves chicken recipes into the story that includes characters such as General Zuo Zongtang, Robert Baker, Celia Steele, Tootsie Herbert, John Tyson, and Henry Saglio. It includes environmental history, zoology, psychology, global economics, and just the right amount of sarcasm and humor. I highly recommend this engaging and thought-provoking book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I found this book very interesting. It traces the culinary history of chicken and eggs, and one of the things I liked was that it included original recipes for the dishes discussed (a few had to be translated). Our appetite for chickens and their eggs is so voracious that the worldwide population of chickens is over 50 billion, making Gallus gallus domesticus one of the most abundant avian species in the world. Almost everyone seems to enjoy it in some form – Hungarians braise it to make paprikas I found this book very interesting. It traces the culinary history of chicken and eggs, and one of the things I liked was that it included original recipes for the dishes discussed (a few had to be translated). Our appetite for chickens and their eggs is so voracious that the worldwide population of chickens is over 50 billion, making Gallus gallus domesticus one of the most abundant avian species in the world. Almost everyone seems to enjoy it in some form – Hungarians braise it to make paprikash, the Senegalese stew it with peanuts and serve it over rice, Mexicans coat it with mole verde, the Japanese dine finely on mizutaki (and some enjoy chicken sashimi), and Java, Vienna, and the American South are all famous for their fried chicken, although of course the ingredients and techniques vary. Indeed, “there’s no other ingredient quite like it – a food so universal that when you say, “tastes like chicken,” almost everyone on the planet will have some idea of what you are talking about.” (page 12). The analogy is not new; upon tasting iguana for the first time, Columbus explained that “the meat is white and tastes like chicken.” However, he might have had something somewhat different in mind, because the taste of a chicken varies according to its genetics, diet, and general lifestyle. Chickens are naturally omnivores and eat insects as well as grain, but most of today’s chickens do not eat the same way. A typical broiler chicken today has also been specifically bred to produce as much meat as possible, to the point of being so heavy it spends most of its life immobile. The US is the world’s largest consumer of chicken, even though Americans are better known throughout the world for their love of beef. Americans eat an average of over 90 pounds of chicken per person per year (about 23 birds); for comparison, the average consumption of beef per person per year is 50 pounds. Americans consume almost six million pounds of chicken every hour, which works out to 8.6 billion chickens per year. That’s almost a third of total annual global consumption. So if you’re a typical American, “you eat chicken to the point of boredom, go search for something else to eat, and then end up eating more chicken.” (page 15). In fact, the first known American recipe for chicken appears in a 1798 cookbook, which is also considered the first American cookbook. Chickens were domesticated between eight and ten thousand years ago. With such a long history, it’s no surprise that the question “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” was debated in ancient Greece. Later, the ancient Romans invented the omelet and came up with the idea of stuffing chickens before roasting them. They even embarked on a chicken breeding program to try to get more and better meat. They also believed in the curative powers of chicken soup – Pliny the Elder even thought it could cure dysentery. In fact, the use of chicken soup as a panacea has an extremely long history; the ancient Persians and most of the medieval Arab world also prescribed chicken soup as a cure-all. And in the twelfth century, the Jewish physician Maimonides recommended that people suffering from everything from asthma to leprosy should sip what has now been nicknamed “Jewish penicillin.” The book includes a medieval recipe from the 1390’s for chicken soup, which also contained eggs, ginger, sugar, saffron, and salt, with wine added immediately before serving. Southern fried chicken is in a class by itself. There are two schools of preparing Southern fried chicken – Virginia Fried Chicken and Maryland Fried Chicken. The earliest written example of Southern fried chicken came from a cookbook written by Mary Randolph in 1824, and as a Virginian herself it should come as no surprise that she subscribed to the Virginia school of thought on the subject. The Virginia method called for deep-frying the bird; the Maryland method called for pan-frying it, then covering the skillet with a lid so that the meat would be steamed as well as crisped. If the ubiquity of KFC is any indication, it looks like the Virginia method has won by a landslide. The Virginia method has its origins in the culinary traditions of Scotland, where the preferred technique was to batter the meat and then deep-fry it in pork fat. However, the story does not stop there, because the Africans brought over as slaves also had their own versions of fried chicken, often coated in chilies or smothered in curry sauces, and typically fried in palm oil. What is thought of now as Southern fried chicken is a fusion of African and Scottish flavors and techniques. In a complete inversion of today’s prices, chicken was more expensive than veal during the Gilded Age; in 1865 New York City, chicken cost $3.78 per pound in today’s dollars. That made it so expensive that serving chicken salad was a status symbol among the wealthy, especially when paired with champagne. Indeed, “nothing has connoted affluence quite like the combination of birds and bubbly. Its union of flavors is so divine it has even been immortalized in poetry.” (page 79). Part of the reason chicken was so expensive was because up until the 1950’s chicken was only sold whole, often with the head and legs still attached and with minimal processing, so that a buying pound of chicken in the market typically translated into a quarter of a pound of edible meat and three-quarters of a pound of chicken bones, blood, and innards. Meanwhile, buying a pound of sirloin steak meant buying roughly a pound of edible meat, which meant that pound for pound chicken was four times as expensive as steak. Very few chickens were available in large cities, and without a modern infrastructure it was difficult to import more from the countryside – and the countryside didn’t have that many to export either, as it was not yet cost-effective to raise large numbers of them and then ship them into cities. This pricing trend continued well into the 1930’s, and contributed to what is now known as “City Chicken.” Because both chicken (at least the cuts most popular among Americans) and veal have very little inherent flavor, it is easy to substitute one for the other and no one be the wiser. Eventually, this trend resulted in butchers skewering cubes of veal and pork and selling it to their customers as “mock chicken.” Most customers would take the skewers home, bread them, brown and simmer them, and then eat them as though they were eating a drumstick. Chicken prices remained high in cities well into the 1930’s and “mock chicken” morphed into “city chicken,” which is still labeled and sold as such in some areas of the Midwest. Eggs have also been popular throughout the world for most of history. People learned long ago that the best way to get a hen to keep laying is to immediately remove the eggs she has already laid. Some of the eggs are eaten, but if you want to build a flock some of them must be set aside to hatch in whatever artificial incubators are readily available. This practice goes back millennia; 3,000 years ago the ancient Egyptians had large egg ovens, and a well-trained individual could hatch 40,000 to 80,000 eggs at a time by monitoring the fire’s temperature and turning the eggs twice a day. Similar structures dating to 500 BC have also been discovered in China. Medieval Europe had considerably less success with temperature control, and it was not until 1881 that the first industrially-produced and commercially viable artificial incubator was invented. The original machine was made out of California redwood and, true to the fashions of time, had ornately carved legs. As part of his advertising campaign, he began taking the incubator to agricultural fairs throughout the country and used it to hatch ostriches and alligators at exhibitions. The campaign worked and eggs began being mass-produced. Nineteenth-century photography owes a great deal to mass-produced eggs because early photographers relied on albumen paper, coated in an emulsion of egg whites and salt, to make their prints. Companies that produced this paper could easily go through 60,000 eggs a day. One popular Renaissance method for cooking eggs was roasting them before a hot fire or buried in coals; if it is done correctly the inside of the egg will acquire a caramel color and a new depth of flavor. But if the egg stayed by the fire too long, it could explode or only one half would be successfully cooked. Shakespeare’s original audiences must have known this, because an insult in one of his plays was “Truly, thou art damn’d, like an ill-roasted egg, all on one side.” Less skilled chefs could spit the eggs, but at least one cookbook author of the time concluded that eggs on a spit were “a stupid concoction.” Roasting, of course, is not the only way to cook eggs, and various techniques for egg cookery seem to have grown up wherever the chicken itself went, from North Africa to Indonesia. And now for some science – I love books with science in them, expected or not. There are over 100 recognized breeds of chicken today, and at least a quarter of them were developed during the mid-nineteenth century, when chickens became increasingly popular and “Hen Fever” raged. There were chicken shows that were similar to dog shows today, and a great deal of effort went into developing breeding standards. These efforts spurred one of the earliest geneticists, the British scientist William Bateson. What Mendel did with peas, Bateson did with chickens, and demonstrated that the same principles of inheritance applied for both plants and animals. As Bateson’s studies showed, “Hen Fever” and the development of new breeds was not restricted to the United States. Mottled and streamlined Russian Orloffs, fluffy Japanese silkies, Golden Polish, and the pure black Indonesian Ayam Cemani all came into their own during this time, as did the English Orpingtons and Dorkings. The book contains drawings of some of these breeds. Many of them are beautiful, but because they neither lay prodigious numbers of eggs nor rapidly grow, their populations are relatively small, and most of them are considered “heritage breeds” suitable for historic farms and perhaps specialty gourmet stores. They also serve as reservoirs of genetic diversity, which may be needed sooner than we think. Chickens play an important part in the transmission of influenza viruses. Wild migratory birds are the primary source of all influenza viruses in chickens, and subsequently humans. And wherever chickens mix with wild migratory birds, they can easily pick up the newest strains of avian influenza. Meanwhile, the extensive international trade in domestic chickens means that the viruses can rapidly spread to new populations. The lack of genetic diversity (almost all chickens raised for the meat market are of a single breed) makes epidemics even more likely; on the other hand, the genetic diversity of wild birds and small backyard flocks can often keep the viruses from spreading. The problem is compounded by factory farming conditions; modern broiler houses are not only perfectly designed to grow chickens but also to incubate avian influenza, and sometimes a single lapse in biosecurity is all it takes to wipe out a flock of thousands. Avian influenza viruses can also readily mutate into strains that infect humans, such as the H5N1 virus that killed multiple people in Hong Kong. But chickens also play an important part in preventing the spread of influenza among humans, because most influenza viruses used in the flu vaccine are incubated in eggs. Recommended for anyone who enjoys omelets, Buffalo wings, chicken nuggets, or roasted chicken for Sunday dinner, as well as fans of culinary history.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    Review originally posted at Book of Bogan I don't really know what brought me to pick up this book, other than the fact that chicken is probably my favourite type of meat, and I guess I had - somewhat naively I guess - always assumed that the path of chicken from domestication to our dinner plates has been a straightforward affair. Tastes like Chicken focuses on the last few centuries worth of history of the raising, and ultimately the industrialisation of the production of chicken meat, and other Review originally posted at Book of Bogan I don't really know what brought me to pick up this book, other than the fact that chicken is probably my favourite type of meat, and I guess I had - somewhat naively I guess - always assumed that the path of chicken from domestication to our dinner plates has been a straightforward affair. Tastes like Chicken focuses on the last few centuries worth of history of the raising, and ultimately the industrialisation of the production of chicken meat, and other products. Most of what I learned was about the changing fortunes of the chicken, and chicken farmers, over the centuries, from a relatively expensive meat, through to what is considered today to be a cheaper option. The book is both well-written and well-researched, and is very easy to read. But I guess the trouble with a lot of these sort of books is how well they would appeal to a mass-market audience. I think it's one of those odd little books you might pick up on a whim if it's on display - it has a pretty cool name and cover - but I don't think people will be racing out to buy it. Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review the book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Olivia Ard

    Culinary history is not my usual pick, but if this book is any indication of the genre, I'll be changing that. Emelyn Rude's meticulously researched history of the chicken as a domesticated source of protein across centuries and continents is packaged neatly in delightful, engaging prose. With every chapter, I learned something new and fascinating about American history that was shockingly connected with the seemingly innocuous bird. If you're at all interested in the history of America and the Culinary history is not my usual pick, but if this book is any indication of the genre, I'll be changing that. Emelyn Rude's meticulously researched history of the chicken as a domesticated source of protein across centuries and continents is packaged neatly in delightful, engaging prose. With every chapter, I learned something new and fascinating about American history that was shockingly connected with the seemingly innocuous bird. If you're at all interested in the history of America and the food we eat, this is required reading. I hope Ms. Rude writes another book soon. I received a complimentary copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Macke

    Like most histories on obscure subjects, what starts out as a fun sidedish becomes a multi-course meal that leaves you a bit bloated ... But it's well told for the most part and the recipes are a nice touch ... I appreciate what the little does for me on a weekly basis

  11. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    I enjoyed the history of our fair bird but not so much the discussion of modern chicken raising practices. I do wish the author had stuck with chronology order, though, as she skipped around quite a bit until about post WWII times.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Shane Phillips

    Just could not get into this book. It seems like a bunch of fact dumping. Chapter breaks seem disorganized and the recipes scattered throughout just interrupt the flow.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I assumed this would be another book about the industrial chicken industry and all its evils. But, Emelyn Rude takes a different look at the chicken. She looks at chicken as a food source and how much that has changed over the years. Chicken was seen as food only for sick or ailing people in the 1800's, while beef was for "strength" or healthy people. Then during slavery in the American South, chickens weren't considered "livestock" so slaves could own them and then chicken became associated wit I assumed this would be another book about the industrial chicken industry and all its evils. But, Emelyn Rude takes a different look at the chicken. She looks at chicken as a food source and how much that has changed over the years. Chicken was seen as food only for sick or ailing people in the 1800's, while beef was for "strength" or healthy people. Then during slavery in the American South, chickens weren't considered "livestock" so slaves could own them and then chicken became associated with slavery and poverty. Only when the chicken industry became industrialized between the 1940's and 1960's did chicken become more widely available and consumed in America. Rude only focuses on the evils of the modern day chicken industry in the last chapter and I wish there had been one more chapter to show the other side - small farm pastured chicken/poultry. Overall, an interesting look at how eating chicken has changed over time in the American culture. Some quotes I liked: "Like their English forebears, Americans were unafraid of letting their livestock take the stand and bear testimony in criminal proceedings. In 1876 a black woman in Virginia was accused of stealing chickens. As part of the prosecution, the mother of the chickens in question was brought to court to see if she could identify those birds as her offspring. The biddy somehow managed to convince those present, beyond a reasonable doubt, that she recognized that those were indeed her progency that were stolen. As a result of the hen's testimony, the human defendant received thirty-nine lashes." (p. 36-7) "By the end of the 1940's, almost all of the broilers in the United States were raised in complete confinement, a practice that was incredibly effective in achieving its aims of efficiently producing very cheap meat. By 1955 the average time required to raise one thousand birds to maturity was just forty-eight man hours, as opposed to the average of two hundred and fifty in 1940." (p. 142) "Further scientific investigation ensued and researchers found that while B12 was indeed essential to a happy chicken, the antibiotic residues affixed to them were veritable chicken Miracle-Gro. When fed antibiotics, the birds required less feed, grew fatter faster, and the mortality rate dropped sharply. Farmers were ecstatic - the discovery was heralded as 'the Biggest Feeding News in 40 years!' - and within the next two decades every single commercially produced chicken in the United States was supplemented with antibiotics." (p. 144) "If humans grew as fat as fast as a modern chicken, a 6.6 pound human baby would reach 660 pounds in just two months." (p.183) "According to one survey of the broiler industry, a typical grower in 1995, 'had been raising chickens for fifteen years, owned three poultry houses, remained deeply in debt, and earned perhaps $12,00 a year.' Unfortunately, not much has changed in the time since. Today the median-income poultry farmer owns between three and five chicken houses, produces some 483,600 broilers each year, and lives below the poverty line." (p. 186)

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bookworm

    An interesting look at chicken Despite the title and the subject, chicken is a rather versatile food. Chicken nuggets, fried chicken, General Tso's chicken, etc. This book purports to look at this food that is a major meat (maybe the main one for some people) and how it fits in our lives, our history, our cultural context, etc.   Author Rude looks at the history of the chicken, from how it got to the United States, how the animal was farmed, the role it has played in history, how people prepare ch An interesting look at chicken Despite the title and the subject, chicken is a rather versatile food. Chicken nuggets, fried chicken, General Tso's chicken, etc. This book purports to look at this food that is a major meat (maybe the main one for some people) and how it fits in our lives, our history, our cultural context, etc.   Author Rude looks at the history of the chicken, from how it got to the United States, how the animal was farmed, the role it has played in history, how people prepare chicken, recipes, etc. The initial part of the history is quite interesting, although I am thankful she didn't go all the way back (ie the evolution of chicken). Sometimes books like this feel the need to put down every single detail but thankfully Rude avoids that mistake and gets right to the meat of it (ha ha).   That's mostly it. It was an interesting look at a food item and how it fits in the US diet (the book is a US-centered look, although we get the history of certain things like the popularity of Kentucky Fried Chicken in Japan on Christmas). It would have been nice if we had seen more of chicken in the non-US context but it's what it says on the cover: "A History of America's Favorite Bird" (I guess that is in the context of eating? What about the eagle?).   I also found the book uneven. Initially the book is quite interesting and flows pretty well when looking at the ancient history. But the author (who is a journalist) tends to jump around in terms of chronology and occasionally jumps off into an anecdote before returning to the main subject. After finishing I found that apparently this was adapted from the author's thesis and sometimes that shows. I think the book adapted from a thesis (and written by a journalist, which I find rarely translates well) actually came across relatively well but it's not always the easiest read.   Still, it was interesting topic and I didn't mind buying it as a bargain book since it wasn't available at my library. I wouldn't rush out to buy it though and recommend the library. 

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ronald Koltnow

    Many of us eat chicken regularly but what do we know about our favorite source of feathered protein? If pressed to name a chicken breed, many of us might be able to come up with something like Rhode Island Red, but we don't really know what that means. Historian Emelyn Rude, who has a background in the restaurant biz, fills us in on the relationship between gallus gallus domesticus and our dinner plate. Did you know that Queen Victoria started the trend of keeping pet hens? Did you know that Put Many of us eat chicken regularly but what do we know about our favorite source of feathered protein? If pressed to name a chicken breed, many of us might be able to come up with something like Rhode Island Red, but we don't really know what that means. Historian Emelyn Rude, who has a background in the restaurant biz, fills us in on the relationship between gallus gallus domesticus and our dinner plate. Did you know that Queen Victoria started the trend of keeping pet hens? Did you know that Putin complained to the U.S. about tariffs on chicken? How about a war between shohets and chicken distributors in early 20th Century NY? Perhaps more than any other food, chicken is linked to culture -- the identification of African-Americans with fried chicken (see below), the Jewish tradition (mentioned above) of humane kills, the archetypal Sunday chicken dinner. In slave days, the first African-American entrepreneurs sold fried chicken to train passengers; some earned enough to buy their freedom. Herbert Hoover buoyed the spirits of anxious Americans with his promise of a "chicken in every pot." Rude, who does not seen rude at all, explains how the general consumption of chicken is a somewhat recent phenomenon. For centuries, chicken was not even considered meat. This is a lively, entertaining history. If you like Mary Roach, you'll like Rude.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mike Shoop

    Interesting, informative history of not only the chicken, but of the chicken industry (mainly in the United States). Chock full of neat tidbits: there's an estimated 50 BILLION chickens on the globe today (more than any other species of bird), likely the first chickens in North America came over with Columbus, chicken wasn't even thought of as "meat" (like beef or pork) until the early 20th century, most people didn't eat the dark meat of the chicken because they thought it was dirty, etc. And w Interesting, informative history of not only the chicken, but of the chicken industry (mainly in the United States). Chock full of neat tidbits: there's an estimated 50 BILLION chickens on the globe today (more than any other species of bird), likely the first chickens in North America came over with Columbus, chicken wasn't even thought of as "meat" (like beef or pork) until the early 20th century, most people didn't eat the dark meat of the chicken because they thought it was dirty, etc. And who knew that New York City went so wild over eating chicken in the 1920s & 30s that there were "Chicken Wars" between suppliers? Or that the chicken industry on Delmarva started when a woman's annual chick order got messed up and instead of 50 chicks she got 500? Or that shippers would stuff live chickens with sand and gravel to keep their weight up while they traveled to market? Or in the South, chickens were often called "yardbirds?" Anyway, a fun curiosity sort of book about a familiar subject.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    What is it about? Chicken Was it good? It was interesting. The book focused mostly on the growth of the chicken industry in North America, but also included chicken recipes and cultural anecdotes from a wider variety civilizations and countries.  The book does NOT offer any judgements or try to scare you into vegetarianism. In fact, the book usually left me more hungry than when I sat down to read.  Did you know the chicken is related to the Tyrannosaurus Rex? 

  18. 4 out of 5

    Thuy Pham

    I really like this book. It’s a fun short read, dry humor, and practical points that are borderline patronizing, what not to love? At first I was a bit disappointed with it, wishing it had more biological information about the chicken and it’s evolution and maybe more outrageous humor. But then I find myself pleasantly entertained by the book and I think to myself: she’s not Mark Essig, Mark Kurlansky, or Mary Roach and wanting her to be like any of those writer is kinda pointless. I like her st I really like this book. It’s a fun short read, dry humor, and practical points that are borderline patronizing, what not to love? At first I was a bit disappointed with it, wishing it had more biological information about the chicken and it’s evolution and maybe more outrageous humor. But then I find myself pleasantly entertained by the book and I think to myself: she’s not Mark Essig, Mark Kurlansky, or Mary Roach and wanting her to be like any of those writer is kinda pointless. I like her style, I like the flow of the book. I don’t care what other people think, I love this book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

    This book was an easy and interesting read. When I picked it up, I didn't realize that it would pretty much be exclusively be about the history of chicken in the United States. I was hoping for more of a Mark Kurlansky-esque history of chicken as a global commodity and how it dovetails into history. Rude did a good job of that from roughly the 1600s through today, but I just feel like it was missing almost everything up until Columbus first set foot on North America.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dawn Betts-Green (Dinosaur in the Library)

    2.5...interesting read, but it got a little tedious after a while

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lizzy

    Highly enjoyed this book! It was the perfect blend of history, sociology, and agroscience. If you are obsessed with chickens, read this!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Cleokatra

    This was interesting. It's about the history of chicken. Some of it I already knew. Some of it I didn't. It could have used a mention of the role of pet food in the modern supply chain of chicken.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine

    Fascinating, informative, well referenced, and easy to read conversational writing.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    An entertaining and informative look at how chicken has been prepared throughout history. Includes recipes.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Marli

    Very interesting and some fascinating recipes as a bonus.

  26. 5 out of 5

    MH

    A fantastic cultural, industrial, and light scientific history of chicken farming and chicken eating. There are dozens of stories - the Hen Craze of Victorian England, the Kosher Chicken War of 1920s New York, Colonel Sanders and General Tso - that could each carry their own books (as well as other, heavier topics like the ethics of factory farming and the horrific punishments of African American chicken thieves), but Rude's goal is to tell a lot of stories quickly, and she provides a generous s A fantastic cultural, industrial, and light scientific history of chicken farming and chicken eating. There are dozens of stories - the Hen Craze of Victorian England, the Kosher Chicken War of 1920s New York, Colonel Sanders and General Tso - that could each carry their own books (as well as other, heavier topics like the ethics of factory farming and the horrific punishments of African American chicken thieves), but Rude's goal is to tell a lot of stories quickly, and she provides a generous sixty pages of endnotes and works cited to let readers discover more about any topics that interest them. Her colorful writing and assured pacing makes this enjoyable book fly by, her extensive research makes this popular history surprisingly authoritative, and the book is interesting, entertaining, and impressive. I was fortunate enough to receive a copy through a Goodreads giveaway.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Brittney Andersen

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book was interesting but I am not one for history books. I was anticipating more history and information about the Delmarva area. It definitely had good history about the chicken. I don't love history so I skimmed most of the beginning chapters and at the end just read about the Delmarva area when I saw it was included in some chapters. At some other point I do want to read this book more thoroughly.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dayna

    This is an informative account of the rise of chicken farming in the US. It doesn't touch much on current scary issues (i.e. hormones, unethical treatment of animals), which interest me, someone who wishes to know exactly what is being consumed. But I'm glad I read it. (Won an ARC in a Goodreads giveaway)

  29. 5 out of 5

    Marty

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sara

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