Capon chickens are male chickens that were castrated before reaching sexual maturity. They are also fed a rich diet, typically including milk or porridge, and this results in a more flavorful and less ‘gamey’ tasting meat.
This type of poultry was considered a luxury in the early 20th century. Being bigger than regular chickens, it was also the meat of choice for special events like Thanksgiving, banquets, Christmas meals, and so on.
What Is a Capon Chicken?
If you Google the word ‘Capon’, which is taken from the Latin word ‘capo’ which means ‘cut’. you get the following definition:
a castrated domestic male chicken fattened for eating.
This is essentially what a capon chicken is. It’s a male chicken that has been intentionally castrated before reaching sexual maturity and fed a special diet to improve the taste and texture of its meat.
Castrating a rooster stops the production of testosterone. It’s this that has an impact on the texture and taste of the meat.
It makes the meat more tender, more flavorsome and gives it less of a ‘gamey’ taste that rooster meat typically has.
Capons are also fed a rich diet containing milk and/or porridge. This also adds to the unique flavor of the meat and adds mass.
Related - Do we eat roosters (male chickens)?
Is Capon Better Than Chicken?
I hear this asked all the time. It’s easy to assume capon must be ‘better’ than chicken as it goes through a more deliberate process, costs more, and has a rich history.
This isn’t going to be the case for everyone though. I’ve had capon myself, and while I can say it is indeed delicious, it’s an acquired taste. Especially for anyone accustomed to eating and being familiar with the taste of chicken.
All I can really say is that you should try capon for yourself at least once and make up your mind for yourself.
Why Are Capons So Expensive?
Capon is a lot more expensive than the regular chicken you find on the supermarket shelves as it is more expensive to feed and raise them, it also takes a lot longer and they aren’t mass-produced like broiler chickens.
I had a brief look around, and I couldn’t see any large retailers selling capons in the U.S. where I was looking. You’re probably going to have to contact a local butcher that deals with private poultry farmers to get a hold of one.
This isn’t the case in other countries though. In France, Italy, and I believe China, capons are much more popular and more readily available - especially during the Chinese New Year festivities.
Are Capons Different From Roosters and Chickens?
A capon is a rooster or a male chicken depending on the age of the bird. So, they are one and the same from that perspective.
Capons do behave differently from male chickens that have not been castrated though, and it’s like dealing with a different bird for the most part.
This is because, as anyone who has owned a rooster will know, roosters are fueled by all that testosterone and can be very aggressive and territorial.
Much like most males in the animal kingdom, as soon as they’re castrated, they behave much more differently.
Capons are not as aggressive as roosters, in fact, they can even be housed together without any issues. This makes it easier for farmers to raise a flock of capons.
The lack of testosterone from an early age also causes capons to look more like hens than roosters. They have smaller combs and wattles, smaller heads, and are plump like hens.
They also don’t have that same chest puffed out kind of posture and walk as roosters have. Caponizing and male has a huge impact on how it develops, which contributes to capon being so different from chicken - yet so similar at the same time!
Hopefully, you now know what capon chickens are, why they’re called capons, and everything else to do with this type of chicken.
If you ever get the opportunity to eat some capon, I recommend giving it a try. It’s a very different taste to chicken, and I’ve certainly never run into anyone who complained!
Image credits - Header photo by Jon Sailer on Unsplash