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Friday, August 3, 2012

Origin of the chicken


My uncle expounds on the neutrality of the chicken:
"Muslims do not eat pork. Hindus do not eat beef. The lesson?" 
He pauses for dramatic effect. 
"Don't be a chicken." 



A highly politicized storm is raging over the fast food chain Chick Fil-A, propagated by the admittedly Christian ownership for their support of opponents of same-sex marriage. LGBT advocates are staging a same sex "kiss day" as a form of protest. But what kind of power does a chicken fillet sandwich hold to engender such passion? 

Prawn stuffed chicken wings, Singapore
The chicken itself has a long storied history of domestication with humans. Numerous breeds exist, from the miniature Cornish game hens to the common layers and broilers bred for docility and factory farming. As with other domesticated animals, its evolution traces closely with human evolution and migration.

Roasted "native" chickens, Cotabato, Philippines
All modern breeds descended in large part from the red jungle fowl from Southeast Asia, which is still extant in the region from India to Indonesia and the Philippines. In fact, although media report the chicken as the first bird genome sequenced, in fact, the investigators wisely chose to map the genome of the red jungle fowl, not a modern derived breed.

Filipinos refer to the more ancestral phenotypes as "native" - which is quite accurate. Meat from native fowl is much leaner, but more flavorful. Modern broilers were also bred for increased meat to bone ratio. Feral escaped chickens  in the Micronesian islands reportedly revert to a jungle fowl like appearance and behavior. 

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