What’s the age of the animal? This is the first question to ask the shopkeeper if you want to buy poultry: chickens, turkeys, fowls, capons or cockerels.

Few foods have been represented in such contradictory terms as poultry: a dish that used to be served up for Sunday lunch and special occasions is now considered an unexceptional weekday choice. On one hand, the market offers much contested cheap battery-reared chickens and, at the other end of the scale, princely Christmas capons and expensive Thanksgiving day turkeys.

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