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Varieties of Chicken

The practice of raising chickens for food is ancient, with the first domestication of poultry thought to have occurred in southern Asia over 4,000 years ago. The most popular varieties of chicken include:

Organic: Organically grown chickens have been fed an organically grown diet and have been raised without the use of hormones or antibiotics. They are raised under human conditions. They are not allowed to be overcrowded, and must be allowed periodic access to the outdoors and direct sunlight while being raised.

Broiler/fryers: Their name belies this all purpose chicken. They can be poached, steamed, grilled, roasted and grilled as well as broiled and fried. They are, however, not a good choice for stewing. They average in weight from 2.5 to 5 pounds and are approximately 8 weeks old when brought to market.

Roasters: This variety can be roasted, grilled, braised or stewed. They average from 3.5 to 6 pounds and are brought to market when they are 3 to 5 months old.

Stewing Chickens: This variety has tough but flavorful meat for stewing, braising and making stock. They are mature chickens that weigh from 4 to 6 pounds and are usually about a year old.

Free Range Chicken: This variety of chicken has been allowed to run freely in the farmyard and scratch for their food rather than being raised in coops. Some believe that this method or raising chickens makes for more flavorful meat. Free range chickens are not necessarily organic.

Capons: These are surgically castrated male chickens. This procedure results in birds that can weigh from 9.5 to 10.5 pounds at a very young age. They have a large proportion of white meat but the thick layer of fat under the skin makes it fattier than most other varieties. They are best roasted.

Rock Cornish Hens: This is a hybrid cross between a Cornish game cock and a White Plymouth Rock Chicken. They weigh from ¾ to 2 pounds, are very low in fat, and can be roasted, broiled, braised or sautéed.

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