The raising and selling of poultry and eggs is a huge business world wide. Some types of bird or fowl are consumed in most countries, chickens being far and away the most common. In the United States alone, more than four billion chickens are consumed each year; at is more than fifty pounds per person. The next most common bird is turkey, which has been associated with holiDay celebrations and feasts. Like chicken, it is a fairly low-calorie, high-protein, moderate-fat meat. Ducks and geese are also eaten, but these birds have much more in fat in their skins and tissues neat) and are therefore much higher in calories. Pheasant and quail are also eaten, and these birds are very high in protein. Yet, all of these birds other than chickens make up only small percentage of the poultry business.
In general, chicken can be a high-protein (complete protein) food that is fairly low in fat. It contains about 11 percent fat, whereas beef may be more like 30?40 percent; and more of the chicken fat, about two-thirds, is polyunsaturated. Also, most of the fat in chickens is in the skin. Chicken eaten without skin is only about 15 percent fat, a better choice for a low-fat diet. These figures pertain to the entire bird, however, the protein and fat ratios vary among the parts. The light meat is lower fat than the dark by about half. The backs and legs have the highest fat content, followed by the thigh and breast, but the breast so has the most protein. Eating just the meat of the chicken and especially avoiding any fried chicken is a way to reduce the fat and calorie content of this billion-seller bird.
Chickens are also very good in other nutrients, though not as concentrated as the vegetable foods, because most of the chicken is protein and fat and much of the vitamins and minerals are contained in the water and carbohydrate portions of foods. The dark meat of chicken is a little higher in the vitamins and minerals. Overall, chickens have some vitamin A and a bit of the B vitamins, with niacin and pantothenic acid being the best. Some pyridoxine (B6) and cobalamin (B12) are present as well. There is some potassium, sodium, phosphorus, zinc, and iron. Calcium and magnesium and other trace minerals are fairly low.
In turkey, the light meat is richer in protein than the dark, with about the same amount of fat. As with chicken, about two-thirds of its fat is the unsaturated type, and the vitamin and mineral makeup is similar to that of chicken. Turkeys have a little more zinc, iron, potassium and phosphorus, with less vitamin A and some of the B vitamins. Ducks and geese have over four times the amount of fats and calories as do the leaner turkey and chicken.
There are so many recipes for cooking and eating chickens throughout the world, and even within each country, that we could likely travel our lifetime eating a different one daily. Baking, broiling, roasting, boiling, and frying are some methods of cooking, and each with its special spices or sauces. The Italians like chicken cacciatore, the French are known for coq au vin, and Asians for sautéed chicken and vegetables, and here in fat-fed America, fried chicken is the style. Baked or broiled is prob-ably the best, and without the skin, if we are very fat conscious.
Many chickens are raised for the purpose of producing eggs. Chicken eggs are consumed in tremendous quantities worldwide, and many nutritional authorities suggest that eggs are one the best proteins available. The egg protein, which is about 50 percent of its makeup, contains all the essential amino acids to be readily used by our system. Other proteins are compared to eggs on a bioavailability basis. (See Chapter 3, Protein.)