Have you eaten quail yet?
We're always on the lookout for the "new"whatever. Kale is the new beef. Orange is the new black. So let's go ahead and add quail to the list.
Yes, quail. That cute little bird that these days you're lucky if you see in the wild. And according to Modern Farmer, the quail industry is alive and doing well, prime for expansion.
A small bird, the American market has often opted for larger fowl. We want more meat for our dining effort so to say. As Southern Living contributing editor Rebecca Lang told Modern Farmer, “I know some cooks see it as a real ‘working for your supper’ with your knife and fork.” The complaint is often working your way through all the tiny bones.
That being said, between 2002 and 2007 quail production in the U.S. doubled. And the upswing in quail might not be reserved to the U.S. market. It's big in Kenya right now as well. So, someone must be eating it, although culturally in the U.S. it's still often thought of as a restaurant meal, and not one that people eat at home. Beyond quail meat, the eggs are also popular in foodie circles.
As for raising quail, the industrial quail farming system is similar to industrial chicken farming, and the slaughtering is essentially the same, except that the equipment used is much smaller.
Can we call quail the new chicken? That might be a bit of a stretch, but in the meantime we can hope for one thing: that quail doesn't go the way of industrial chicken. The negative effects of the intensive farming of poultry can't be avoided (quails that can't fly or graze are not happy birds), and if we're going to advocate for a new bird to be on our plates we should think seriously about where they're coming from and how they are raised.
Or, since there's a good chance that you've already taken a plunge into raising your own chickens, maybe just get a few quails, build a quail coop and eat their eggs for breakfast, too.
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Image: Mike Baird