The Chicken Farming Industry Was Born From A Delivery Error

In America, it's fair to say that chicken is often what's for dinner. Nearly 22 billion chickens are eaten every single day, which equates to the average American eating 80 pounds of poultry every year. After all, chicken is a versatile meat, which can be prepared in a multitude of ways. Historically, chicken has also been cheaper than other popular types of meat like beef or pork — though, as chicken thigh prices have been steadily increasing, this may no longer hold true.

However, the appetite for chicken hasn't decreased, and the chicken farming industry shows no signs of slowing down. Mexican chicken production is set to increase by 3%, and the number one export destination is none other than their North American neighbors. Yet more than a century ago, chicken meat was considered a delicacy only enjoyed on special occasions. This seems hard to imagine now, but the industrial chicken industry wasn't born out of a mass desire for chicken nuggets. It was born out of an ordering accident.

500 chicks delivered instead of 50

Exactly a century ago, in 1923 a certain Mrs. Wilmer Steele, an American farmer who kept a tiny flock of chickens used for eggs, happened to receive an order of 500 chicks. This high number of chickens was quite unusual to receive at a time when even larger farms had — at most — 300 chickens on hand. Most likely, someone had mistakenly added a zero to the original order (which was for 50 birds).

Mrs. Steele decided to keep the chickens and fed them by hand in her 16-square-foot broiler house. Once the chicks reached two pounds, she sold over three hundred of them (some did not survive) for 62 cents a pound, and then the following year doubled her order to 1,000 chickens. In just another year there were around 50,000 similar operations to sell chicken meat en masse. And like that, the chicken meat industry hatched and has since continued to grow. New competition is on the horizon, however, with the lab-grown meat industry making strides.