What is poultry?


What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word poultry? For most people, chicken is what immediately comes to mind. While it is certainly the most common type of poultry raised in the United States, it is not the only kind. Other birds in the poultry category are turkeys, ducks, geese, quail, pheasants, ostriches, and many more.

The term poultry actually refers to a variety of bird types raised on farms for food, fiber, or entertainment. That’s right, entertainment—and we aren’t talking about dancing chickens! The most common entertainment variety is pigeons. You can race pigeons or even have them carry messages for you.

Expanding Our View of Poultry

Poultry is a big part of the American diet. We consume it in many forms—meat, eggs, broth—and it is included in much of the food we eat. For example, we may think about turkeys only at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Yet turkey meat is now included in a wide variety of everyday food items—think turkey bacon!

What about eggs? We eat a lot of chicken eggs. But in some parts of the world, duck eggs are actually more popular. Have you ever thought about why we don’t eat turkey eggs? It’s mostly because turkeys don’t lay a lot of eggs compared to chickens. Chicken hens lay an average of one egg a day, while a turkey lays only about two eggs a week. That’s nearly 352 eggs a year for one hen versus just over 100 a year for a turkey.   

The Business of Poultry

Poultry is big industry in the United States. In 2013 we produced more than:

  • 50 billion pounds of chicken meat (produced mostly in Georgia and Alabama)
  • 7.5 billion pounds of turkey meat (produced mostly in Minnesota and North Carolina)
  • 95 billion chicken eggs (mostly in Iowa)

That’s a lot of poultry!

Want to see how poultry farming works? Check out these videos for an up-close look at different types of poultry production in action.

Farm to the Table 

Turkey Farm Tour

Farm to table virtual tours (American Egg Board)


Dr. Jacquie Jacob
University of Kentucky