How Chicken Became the First White Meat

In 1956, farmers received their first batch of coccidiostat, a drug that fights parasites appearing in large concentrations of chickens and turkeys. Over time, some of those farmers were able to move their backyard flocks into 3-story structures with 30,000 birds a floor, thus finally competing in price with the more efficient beef industry.

One of the most important forces in this change was Max Tishler, a chemist at Merck who led the development of medicines essential to modern husbandry. His invention “made possible a great expansion of the poultry industry and created overnight a new field for research–an event of great magnitude for agriculture.” Tishler’s research in vitamins and hormones led to drugs and vaccines for humans as well as animals, including a family of compounds that led to effective treatment of river blindness, a disease common in undeveloped, tropical countries. To learn more about the state of the poultry industry today, read updates at:
National Sustainable Agriculture
The Poultry Site
The California Poultry Federation
International Poultry Expo

Author: Thy Tran

San Francisco-based writer specializing in history and culture of food.

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